The Land Trust of Napa County is pleased to announce the completion of a conservation easement protecting 5,384 acres of Gunn Ranch on the east side of Lake Berryessa. In the last five years, the Land Trust has worked with landowners to complete six separate conservation easement projects in this area, protecting over 12,800 contiguous acres, including most of the land rising above the lake along its ten-mile-long eastern shore. The project was completed with funding from the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) and in partnership with the California Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Three years ago, the Land Trust acquired an easement over 840 abutting acres of this same ranch, so that now, one of the largest ownerships in Napa County – 6,224 acres – is permanently protected. These easements eliminate all potential for residential and commercial development, as well as any cultivated agriculture, across the entire property. At the same time, the ongoing cattle ranching operation can continue as before with the addition of a sustainable management plan, something that the landowners are very comfortable with.
“I want to thank the landowners, Amy and Roger Gunn, for their far-sighted commitment to protecting this beautiful property,” said Doug Parker, CEO of the Land Trust. “The land has been in their family for a long time and I know that protecting it into the future was very important to them.”
“This is so exciting,” said Roger Gunn, “I’ve spent my life in the hills east of Lake Berryessa. They look the same now as they did when I was a kid. I find the idea that these same hills will be protected forever in their natural state very heartwarming.”
The land extends from protected land at Lake Berryessa, the seventh largest reservoir in California, to the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, along the Napa-Yolo county line. By protecting the land between these federal lands and connecting them together, a protected area of more than 30,000 contiguous acres has been created. Connecting these large conservation lands preserves wildlife corridors and a very extensive functioning oak woodland system across a large region, while maintaining viable ranching operations.
Congressman Mike Thompson supported the effort and said, “Congratulations to the Land Trust of Napa County for permanently protecting this beautiful and important land for future generations. We are fortunate to have the Land Trust and will benefit greatly from their work.”
“I want to thank DOC and NRCS for providing the funding for this important conservation project,” said Parker. “It would not have happened without their programs and the work of their staff.”
Partial funding for this easement transaction came from the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program – a component of the California Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. The program aims to simultaneously protect Ag lands from development, promote infill development, support California’s food security, and reduce future emissions of greenhouse gases. SALC is part of California Climate Investments (CCI), a statewide program that puts billions of Cap and Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.
“We congratulate the Gunn family and the Land Trust of Napa County for closing the Gunn Ranch easement,” said SGC Executive Director Louise Bedsworth. “This suite of projects provides significant carbon storage, habitat, and other environmental benefits. We are thrilled that California Strategic Growth Council’s SALC Program investment is supporting land conservation on such a large scale.”
The Department of Conservation administers the SALC Program on behalf of SGC.
“The completion of this project represents tremendous cooperation and dedication on the part of the all the parties involved,” Department of Conservation Director David Shabazian said. “The Land Trust of Napa County and the Gunn family have been great partners, and I’m very proud of our department’s role in this effort, which has benefits to Californians beyond the permanent conservation of the wonderful landscape.”
“Protecting and enhancing the Gunn ranch lands provides sustainable benefits for California’s agricultural landscape,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS California state conservationist. “We continue to support our customers and conservation partners who strive to put good conservation on the ground.”
“This is the third-largest conservation easement we’ve completed in our 43-year history,” said Parker. “In total, the Land Trust of Napa County has now protected over 81,000 acres.”