Beautiful 1,206-acre East Santa Rosa Ranch Protected Forever

Beautiful 1,206-acre East Santa Rosa Ranch Protected Forever

December 13, 2018

Posted in: Press Releases

Beautiful and Scenic East Santa Rosa Ranch Protected Forever

Ag + Open Space and Sonoma Land Trust partner to conserve 1,206-acre ranch

SANTA ROSA, CA (December 12, 2018) – Yesterday the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) approved up to $3.48 million in public funds to acquire two conservation easements over the 1,206-acre Weeks Ranch, which is made up of two properties (Weeks Ranch North and South) that straddle Los Alamos Road just before the northern entrance to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve. The easements ensure the scenic hillsides and stream headwaters on the properties remain intact forever, that agricultural operations continue, and the grasslands and forests continue to sequester carbon and provide water quality and quantity benefits. Sonoma Land Trust received a $720,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to support the total purchase price of the easement – $4.2 million.

The landowners, who wish to remain anonymous, want to protect their property because of the rapid development moving up the hill on the outskirts of Rincon Valley. It is important to them to protect their ranch, which has been in the family for roughly 130 years, from subdivision and fragmentation.

“Safeguarding our working and natural lands from development and helping long-time ranching families stay in business are two of the primary reasons our residents created the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District nearly 30 years ago,” says First District Supervisor, Susan Gorin, who sits on the District’s Board of Directors and whose district includes Weeks Ranch. “This project does both of those things and more – it also maintains the scenic quality of our county and protects the trees and streams that provide so many benefits to our human and natural communities.”

The ranch, which consists of rolling grasslands, Douglas-fir forest, oak woodland and chaparral, is also home to grazing beef cattle that provide income to the family and also help to reduce fire fuel loads on the property by eating grasses and other vegetation. The property includes headwaters of important tributaries to Santa Rosa and Mark West Creeks, which are important riparian corridors for sensitive fish species, such as steelhead trout and Coho salmon. Further, by restricting development on these properties, the easements help to maintain a well-traveled wildlife corridor through the Mayacamas Mountains.

“The beauty of our work is that we often achieve multiple benefits within a single project,” says Ag + Open Space General Manager, Bill Keene. “By working with the landowners to conserve Weeks Ranch, we’ve helped to support their beef cattle business and prevented future subdivision, we’ve maintained a beautiful scenic landscape in the gateway to the Valley of the Moon, and we’re helping to retain natural areas that are important for the health of our residents and our wildlife.”

The Sonoma Land Trust secured grant funding in 2016 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to permanently protect lands of critical importance in the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, which is part of a linkage of natural lands stretching from the Marin Coast to the mountainous areas of Napa and Lake Counties. “This ranch is a great example of how working lands are also very beneficial to wildlife species such as bear, mountain lions, and steelhead trout,” said Dave Koehler, Executive Director for Sonoma Land Trust. “We applaud the owners for their conservation vision, and we are grateful to the Moore Foundation for recognizing how important it is to protect these big ranches before it’s too late.”

About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space is a special district that permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. Funded by a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006, the district has protected over 117,000 acres to date, and will continue to steward these and future protected lands forever. For more information, visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.

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