By Patricia Lynn Henley
NORTH BAY LAND TRUSTS
The Sonoma Land Trust's $13 million deal in November to buy the 1,665-acre Roche Ranch in southern Sonoma County is one of the highlights of a year that's included considerable progress in protecting agricultural lands and other open spaces throughout the North Bay.
The Roche Ranch is a significant asset because of its sweeping ridge top views, rare wildlife species and dazzling spring wildflower displays. Its purchase also means that 7,500 acres between the bay and Sonoma Mountain will now remain as uninterrupted habitat. The trust intends to keep the Roche Ranch property for about three to five years. "We've been working closely with Sonoma County Regional Parks with the intent to, in the future, add this property to Tolay Lake Regional Park, which will double the size of the park," says Wendy Eliot, conservation director for Sonoma Land Trust.
The trust's other major 2007 acquisition is its $970,000 purchase in September of the 27-acre Lower Pitkin Marsh on the Gravenstein Highway, between Graton and Forestville. Prior to this deal, this wetlands property had been slated to be developed as a 24,000-square-foot residential care facility. About $400,000 of the total purchase price came from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which also kicked in $2 million for the Roche Ranch deal.
Other significant 2007 purchases by the open space district include: $2.56 million for an easement on the 874-acre Tremari Ranch; $600,000 to add 41 acres to Sonoma Valley Regional Park; $7.78 million to buy the 248 acres Clover Springs, which will eventually be managed by the city of Cloverdale; $4.85 million for the 1,235-acre Poff property, slated to become part of the Sonoma Coast State park; $3 million for the 340-acre Cresta property, earmarked to become a regional parks open space preserve.
Elsewhere in the North Bay, six easements were donated to the Land Trust of Napa County in 2007 and the organization is wrapping up five others. The land Trust of Napa County's main thrust is a $26 million campaign to preserve and protect more than 4,000 acres at Wild Lake and Duff Ranch. It purchased more than 3,000 acres at Wild Lake in 2006, and the trust hopes to acquire the Duff Ranch property soon.
And the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) paid $1 million for the development rights on Crayne Ranch on Dillon Beach Road, and has two other easements in the works which are due to close soon. "Every year's different because each project takes one and a half to two years to go from start to finish," says Elisabeth Ptak, MALT's associate director. "We have about 12,000 acres we hope to protect over the next five years."
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