On August 5, 2016 a conservation easement on Epperson Place Ranch closed bringing the total conserved acreage in Colusa County’s Bear Valley to 20,179 acres. Just 29 days before, a conservation easement on the adjoining Keegan Ranch closed. These two important projects added 4,049 acres to the 16,130 acres already under conservation easement in the valley.
Bear Creek runs through the ranches and is recognized as a significant stream by noted UC Davis fisheries biologist Peter Moyle because the native fish fauna remains intact and includes California roach and Sacramento sucker. Also found in Bear Creek are yellow-legged frog and western pond turtle, both California Species of Concern.
Bear Valley is world famous for spectacular springtime wildflower displays that draw native plant enthusiasts, botanists, and range conservationists in search of rare and endangered plants that thrive in the valley due to the unique soils. An innovative gate on Keegan Ranch gives the public access to walk out among the wildflowers without letting the livestock out. Thanks to a partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) this part of the valley will continue to be a destination for wildflower enthusiasts.
Keegan Ranch closed first on July 7, 2016 and California Rangeland Trust’s partners were quick to respond.
“We are proud to be a part of preserving the Keegan Ranch and Epperson Place and the unique beauty these properties provide,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS California State Conservationist. “From the rare serpentine soils, extensive wildflower fields and native grasses to the productive rangeland, this working cattle ranch is a great example of how ranchers can work with conservation groups to voluntarily protect the natural environment and sustain a way of life.” These ranches are the first in California to be funded by NRCS’s Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance under its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) Executive Director said, “The WCB is proud to be a partner with California Rangeland Trust in the Keegan Ranch and Epperson Place conservation easements to support and protect oak woodlands, deer and mountain lion habitat, watersheds, and wildlife corridors. Additionally, this property supports a number of special status species and is renowned for its wildflower resources. The ability to protect this property for future generations was a fantastic opportunity for which the WCB is proud to be a part.”
Keegan Ranch has been stewarded by the Keegan family since 1880 and Epperson Place since the 1940’s. Jim Keegan, owner of Keegan Ranch and manager of both ranches, looked to the future and wanted to see the family ranch preserved. Jim says, “You will never see the future if you keep looking at the past.”
Jim’s sister Lucy Penning, who owns Epperson Place Ranch with other sister, Katie Townzen and their husbands agreed. They didn’t want the family ranch carved up as is the case with so many ranches. “Katie and I wanted to permanently conserve Epperson Place to make sure that the ranch, which has been in our family for over 100 years, continues to be a working cattle ranch.”
Epperson Place closed on August 5, 2016, bringing the total acreage conserved by California Rangeland Trust to 291,288 acres. California Rangeland Trust CEO Nita Vail said, “Thanks to partnerships with NRCS and WCB on these projects, Keegan Ranch and Epperson Place will never be subdivided, developed, or plowed under. Each conservation easement is an enormous undertaking and each project closing is a testament to the dedication, collaboration, and commitment of every team involved. Now, these ranches will remain as they are forever.”
“The Keegan and Epperson Ranches are a great example of a multi-agency and private partnership that will protect vital habitats for plants and wildlife, expand and protect wildlife corridors, and will help wildlife adapt to climate change in perpetuity. Conservation of these ranches helps meet several goals aimed at reducing pressures to the Northern California Interior Coast Range Ecoregion outlined in California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan,” said Joshua Bush, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist.
About California Rangeland TrustThe California Rangeland Trust, a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation, was created to conserve the open space, natural habitat and stewardship provided by California’s ranches. To date, the Rangeland Trust has protected more than
311,751 acresof productive grazing lands across the state through the use of conservation easements. For more information, visit www.rangelandtrust.org.