NR 2006-19
June 28, 2006

Contact: Ed Wilson
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886

$6.5 Million State Commitment Protects
 Environmentally Significant Butte County Ranch

Original Mexican Land Grant Property Home to Several Threatened Species

SACRAMENTO -- The state of California has committed $6.5 million in funding to protect 4,235 acres of agricultural land supporting an abundance of wildlife in Butte County. With this project’s completion, nearly the entire Llano Seco Ranch, an 18,434-acre Mexican Land Grant, will be permanently shielded from development in a fast-growing area of California.

“We’re very pleased with this project,” said California Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman. “We’re providing a buffer for habitat critical to several special-status species, protecting important agricultural land, and helping to keep an organic cattle operation working. Beyond that, we’re proud of the cooperation between state and local government and the landowners that made this vision a reality.”

Of the 4,235 acres protected under this easement, approximately 1,870 acres are in intensely managed agricultural production of walnuts, almonds, garbanzo beans, sunflowers and other crops; 1,715 acres are used for grazing; and 736 acres are covered in sloughs and riparian vegetation, including grasslands, cottonwood, and Great Valley oak riparian forests. Most of the remainder of the ranch is already shielded from development, having been permanently sold in a combination of fee and easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Nature Conservancy.

Funding for the project comes from the Department of Fish and Game implementing the CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program ($2.57 million); the Wildlife Conservation Board ($2.0 million); and the Department of Conservation’s California Farmland Conservancy Program ($1.93 million). The California Oak Foundation (COF) and the Northern California Regional Land Trust (NCRLT) were the grant applicants, and NCRLT will hold the easement.

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle, winter run Chinook salmon, and Swainson’s hawk are some of the species with special status under the federal and state Endangered Species Acts that will be protected by the new easement. Marshes on the ranch are habitat for several flora species listed as rare and endangered in Butte County by the California Native Plant Society, such as Ferris milk-vetch, rose mallow and fox sedge.

The land in the easement area is part of the historic Central Valley floodplains of the Sacramento River and Little Butte Creek, where present-day pastures and fields surround a network of undulating natural swales and channels filled with groves of oak woodlands. The easement will protect the natural topography and seasonal flooding of this landscape. The area is one of the valley’s best surviving examples of “water management without the levees”: a functioning floodplain that still supports vast seasonal and permanent wetlands, watercourses, and forested habitats.