“The property is in a key location,” said Doug Parker, CEO of the Land Trust. “It abuts the 1,278-acre property just purchased in October by the Land Trust as well as other lands owned by the District and BLM. This area in northern Pope Valley has been identified as a high conservation priority because of its key location within the North Bay’s priority wildlife corridor and because this area, and specifically this property, contain a large number of Napa’s rarest native species.”
“When Spanish Valley was donated to the Napa Open Space District in 2010, the District made a commitment to protect this natural landscape in perpetuity”, according to John Woodbury, General Manager of the District. “The conservation easement strengthens this commitment by providing back-up protection. Even if something were to ever happen to the District, the Land Trust is empowered to step up and ensure the conservation values of the property remain intact.”
Besides extensive oak woodlands and chaparral, the property includes an unusually large open grassland within the area known as “Spanish Valley”. This large meadow includes a number of rare native species, including foothill yellow-legged frogs, several bird species and 17 rare plants such as Swamp Larkspur, which exists only in Napa and three other counties and Bare Monkeyflower which exists in only five counties.
These rare plants are threatened by invasive species. The Land Trust and the District worked with CalFire over the past year to plan a controlled burn on the property in June. As in many open areas across Napa County, invasive species have been expanding across the property over the years, crowding out the native species and creating thick mats of thatch that serve as fuels for the spread of wildfires. In the last few years, the Land Trust has completed three controlled burns, working with CalFire, on neighboring properties, burns that have proven to be very effective at reducing fuel loads, removing invasive species and restoring native species. At 320 acres, this would have been the largest of those controlled burns. The burn was planned for June because that is the most effective time to eliminate invasives, before their seeds drop into the soil, while sparing most natives species that have already dropped their seeds. However, at the last moment, the scheduled burn had to be postponed. Then two months later, in August, the LNU wildfire burned across the property. “It’s too bad we couldn’t complete the controlled burn beforehand,” said Parker. “That could have provided a significant fire break during the wildfire. A fire in August leads to increased smoke at a vulnerable time of year for Napa agriculture and it’s not as effective at reducing invasives.” The impact on invasives and native species will be assessed next spring.
The Spanish Valley conservation easement is the next step in a collaboration between the Land Trust and the Open Space District aimed at further ensuring that their lands will be protected in perpetuity. “The easement provides a second level of protection for the property,” said Lena Pollastro, Lands Program Manager at Land Trust. “Providing additional protection like this is best conservation practice and we’re pleased to be able to do this in partnership with the District on both their lands and ours.” As part of this same initiative, the Land Trust previously transferred an easement to the District over its popular Linda Falls Preserve in Angwin.