864 acres of PUC priority forest land permanently protected

Creates a contiguous area of over 1,750 acres of protected land.

Land Trust of Napa County is pleased to have completed the protection of 864 acres of priority forest land, working with Pacific Union College and CAL FIRE.

The land is owned by Pacific Union College and PUC will continue to own this forest near its Angwin campus in the mountains northeast of St. Helena. The easement permanently eliminates the potential for residential, commercial and agricultural development on the land with the easement held by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“The project was very high priority for the Land Trust” said Doug Parker, CEO of LTNC. “The completion of the conservation easement on the PUC forest 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”.

The forest abuts Las Posadas State Forest and a Land Trust permanent preserve, creating a contiguous area of over 1,750 acres of protected land. It supports significant wildlife habitats and rare plants. Wildlife such as black bears and mountain lions use it to travel the mountains. Rare species such as the purple-flowering Napa false indigo are found there and the forest has redwoods that are unusually far inland for this species. In addition, the upper reaches of Moore Creek run through the forest. The creek is a major water source for Napa’s Lake Hennessey reservoir.

In recent years, PUC had considered selling their forest lands to generate funds to support their primary mission: education. The college changed course when it learned about the option of working with LTNC, the Wildlife Conservation Board, and CAL FIRE to sell a Conservation Easement (CE) on those lands under the state’s Forest Legacy Program. PUC’s Board of Trustees chose the CE option to generate the much-needed funds while still maintaining the legacy of the forest.

“The PUC forest easement is a critical Forest Legacy project,” says Stewart McMorrow, CAL FIRE deputy chief of forestry assistance. “We are protecting an important forest from the possible 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.”

“The Wildlife Conservation Board is proud to partner with CAL FIRE, in cooperation with the Land Trust of Napa County and Pacific Union College, in supporting healthy forest resources while protecting wildlife habitat and corridor integrity,” says John Donnelly, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Board.

LTNC has been working on this CE project for over four years to raise the funds needed to complete the acquisition.

PUC has long allowed the public to hike in the forest and will continue to do so. “The forest is part of our rich heritage here on Howell Mountain. It provides welcome opportunities for both education and recreation in a pristine forested setting,” said PUC president Dr. Robert Cushman. He added, “I am very pleased to see this forest preserved and managed in perpetuity”.

Funds for the $7.1 million purchase came from the California Wildlife Conservation Board, CAL FIRE and donations from private donors to the Land Trust. PUC generously accepted $1.5 million less than appraised value.

“I want to thank the California Wildlife Conservation Board and CAL FIRE 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 significantly below appraised value. We very much appreciate PUC’s commitment to the permanent conservation of this beautiful forest.” He adds, “Finally, a very special thanks to the private donors whose generosity capped this fundraising effort, allowing this beautiful forest to be protected permanently.”

The Napa Valley Register published a story about this project on Jan. 1, 2019 that can be found here – http://bit.ly/2AzfhB7.