Pacific Union College (PUC), the Land Trust of Napa County (LTNC), and CAL FIRE are pleased to announce the permanent protection of 246 acres of priority forest land in Angwin, California. Working together, the partners closed a conservation easement (CE) on land owned by PUC. The forest will continue to belong to the college, but the easement will protect the forest by permanently eliminating the potential for residential, commercial, and agricultural development of the property.

The PUC forest has been used by students, faculty, and the community for over 100 years, and the college wants to maintain and manage this use in the future. With this CE, the college will be able to ensure ongoing use of the forest for research, classes, and student projects.

“The successful completion of this Conservation Easement project took the help of so many partners and supporters,” said Dr. Ralph Trecartin, PUC president.  “We are deeply grateful to each one.  Together, we cherish the vision of preserving a healthy forest and the sublime beauty that comes from such a treasure as the one we have preserved today.”

“This easement abuts an 864-easement completed a few years ago, the 800-acre Las Posadas State Forest, and a Land Trust property,” explains Peter Lecourt, forest manager for the college. “With this new easement, working with our partners, we have created an area of over 2,000 acres of contiguous protected land.”

PUC’s Board of Trustees chose the CE option to generate much-needed funds while maintaining the legacy of the forest. The process also generated a clear management plan for the PUC forest, approved by the State, and a renewed focus for the college on managing the forest for long-term benefits for both the college and the community.

“The PUC forest Conservation Easement remains a critical Forest Legacy project,” says Peter Leuzinger, CAL FIRE’s Deputy Chief of Forestry Assistance. “CAL FIRE’s Forest Legacy program continues to invest in the Eastern Angwin area to prevent forest fragmentation and conversion to non-forest uses, and that is incredibly important for not only the College and the Community, but for the local ecosystem as well.”

LTNC and PUC have been working on this CE project for over four years to garner the state grants and private donations needed to complete the acquisition. During that time the college has made major investments in professional forestry assistance to manage the forest in a sustainable and fire-safe manner.  “Since the creation of our first conservation easement,” said Peter Lecourt, “PUC has made significant progress on forest restoration work to help thin out our forest to make it healthier and more resilient against wildfire moving into the future.”

“The forest belonging to Pacific Union College has long been known as one of the most significant natural areas in Napa,” said Doug Parker, CEO of the Land Trust.  “This property is heavily forested, dominated by Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. It includes a number of rare native species, wildflowers that exist only in Napa and a few surrounding counties, including Streamside Daisy, Green Coyote Mint, Nodding Harmonia and Narrow-anthered Brodiaea.  It is also at a crossroads of two important wildlife corridors identified as priorities by the Land Trust.”

“The completion of this conservation easement is an important step toward achieving one of our primary goals: creating a continuous corridor of protected land along the entire length of the eastern ridge above Napa Valley,” said Parker.

The easement will also help protect Moore Creek.  This property includes the headwaters of Moore Creek, which runs from here, through the PUC forest protected by the first easement, through Las Posadas State Forest and on to Lake Hennessey.  Moore Creek is one of the main sources of water for the lake, which is the main local source of water for the City of Napa.

The easement was appraised at $5.3M.  PUC accepted a price of $4M, giving up $1.3M in value.  LTNC entered into a purchase agreement with PUC at that price and raised the $4M and then transferred the purchase agreement to CAL FIRE, which will hold the easement. Funding for this project was provided by CAL FIRE, the United States Department of Agriculture, through the U.S. Forest Service, as part of the Federal Forest Legacy Program and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The property includes numerous trails and PUC will continue to allow public access to these trails.

“I want to thank CALFIRE, the U.S. Forest Service and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for their commitments to this project,” says Parker.  “Without their help, this easement would never have happened.  In addition, it would not have been possible without the commitment from PUC to accept a price below appraised value.  We very much appreciate PUC’s commitment to the permanent conservation of this beautiful forest.”

Read the Napa Register story here