The Land Trust of Napa County and the Black Sears family are pleased to announce an addition to the Dunn-Wildlake Preserve. The Black Sears family has donated 117 acres to the Land Trust. The parcel is adjacent to the preserve and will enlarge the Angwin preserve to 3,200 acres.
“I want to thank the Black Sears family for their ongoing stewardship of this property for 35 years and for their commitment now, to protect its natural values forever,” said Doug Parker, CEO of the Land Trust. “Their generosity will provide a legacy extending far into the future.”
Joyce Black Sears grew up in Oakville and spent countless hours of her childhood roaming the forests and meadows with her brother. In turn, she and her husband, Jerre, moved to Angwin to raise their daughter, Ashley, again in the forests of Napa Valley.
“Quite by accident or by providence, Jerre and I began farming Zinfandel on land purchased just a few years afterwards on a parcel that came up for sale,” said Joyce Black Sears. “The “Hard Luck Vineyard” became Black Sears Vineyard.”
Now, 35 years later, Ashley and her husband, Chris Jambois, are continuing the work of caring for the vines and making Black Sears wines while their three boys run through the forests of Howell Mountain.
“We believe that nature has a place in the wine industry and that to ensure the future of our beloved Valley and industry, it’s important to care for and protect the remaining undeveloped land,” said Ashley Sears Jambois. “Land protection is essential to the flora and fauna as well as the watershed.”
The forested property is completely undeveloped and has varied habitats, chiefly Douglas fir and mixed hardwood with madrone and several oak species, as well as foothill pine and chamise/chaparral. According to a botanical survey completed on the property in 2022, nine special status species were identified, including Napa Lomatium, Cobb Mountain Lupine, Napa Checkerbloom and Nodding Harmonia. These are all rare, endemic wildflowers that exist only in Napa and 3-4 other counties—nowhere else in the world.
“The property’s biodiversity is very significant,” said Parker, “and the property is in a key location, part of a larger conservation goal to develop a continuous corridor of protected land for wildlife along the ridge above the eastern side of the valley,” said Parker. “In this section of that corridor, we are working to connect protected lands from Robert Louis Stevenson Park and Wildlake, to forested land in Angwin that we’ve protected in partnership with Pacific Union College, to Las Posadas State Forest and then to Lake Hennessey. Protecting this property is a key step toward that larger vision.”
“Based on information gathered by our motion-activated camera project nearby, we know this area is significant for wildlife. We often get photos of bobcats, mountain lions, deer and bears here. When compared to similar projects elsewhere in the region, the numbers are significant, especially for bears—more bears than any other place in the Bay Area—a strong indication that the natural system is functioning and worth protecting.”
“Each year we have visiting mountain lion and we have bear that glean fruit from our vines,” said Ashley. “We’ve even built a bear ladder over the vineyard fence, although they seem to prefer using the stumps and trees to get over. It is possible to live with the wildlife, but first we must understand that their needs are as important as our own. And their most important need is space, protected land.”
“And now, because of the Black Sears family’s generosity and far-sightedness, the wildlife that roam these forests and the rare wildflowers will continue to have this place into the future,” said Parker.
For years, the Black Sears family had a special place on the property for relaxation and contemplation that they called ‘The Point’. “As we’ve seen the Valley change so much in terms of development, it became apparent that we wanted to ensure the permanent protection of the place that we love so dearly,” said Ashley. “Gifting this piece of land to the Land Trust feels like the best way to pass on the torch of stewardship.”
“We honor this land and Harry Tranmer for his foresight as a founder of the Land Trust of Napa County,” said Joyce Black Sears. “May nature thrive on this beloved land in the care and protection of the Land Trust in perpetuity.”