ALC Conserves 5,940 acres of working ranchlands, critical salmon habitat in Shasta County, CA
For Immediate Release:
SAN FRANCISCO, June 8, 2011â€” On Friday, May 20th, American Land Conservancy (ALC) conserved 5,940 acres of critical wildlife habitat and working ranchlands in Shasta County, California by completing a conservation easement on the JS Ranch. Funding for the easement was provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Serviceâ€™s Grassland Reserve Program and the California Wildlife Conservation Board.
The easement protects a working ranch that has operated continuously for more than 150 years, as well as habitat for salmon, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, and 15 other sensitive plant and animal species in the Cow Creek watershed. Much of the ranch is covered by blue oak woodlands, which are also a conservation priority in the state. The watershed is located in the Central Valley, which faces severe growth and development pressures and has lost the vast majority of its native habitats since the Gold Rush, making whatâ€™s left extremely important to wildlife.
"This property has been a cattle ranch since the 1860s," said George McArthur, owner of the JS Ranch. "My family has owned this ranch since 1999 and has put a lot of energy into improving the range for both cattle and wildlife. We now see elk out here every year, and we always enjoy seeing the salmon return to the ranch with the first fall rains," he said. "It gives my wife and me great sense of accomplishment to know it will be protected for our children and grandchildren and for generations to come. We are grateful to everyone who helped make it possible."
The American Land Conservancy applauds the McArthurs for their excellent stewardship of the ranch and their decision to permanently protect the property through a conservation easement.
"The McArthurs have an admirable land ethic," said Edward Stanton, ALC Central Valley program manager and a wildlife biologist. "Aerial photographs comparing conditions on the property before and after the McArthurs took ownership make abundantly clear that the range and creeks have benefited from the management practices they have introduced over the last decade. The McArthurs have a thorough understanding of how to care for the land; ALC is essentially just connecting them with additional resources to help sustain and improve the natural resource values they themselves have recognized on the ranch, while also ensuring the property is protected."
The American Land Conservancy has worked with the McArthur family since 2007 to secure an easement on the ranch. In addition, the USDAâ€™s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assisted the McArthurs in creating a grazing plan for the property and will continue to help manage the range. The California Department of Fish and Game was also instrumental in the project by developing a long-term conservation plan for the Cow Creek Watershed, as well as providing financial support through the California Wildlife Conservation Board.
"Itâ€™s gratifying to work with conscientious landowners like the McArthurs," said Bob Bailey, District Conservationist, of the Redding NRCS office. "They are leaders in the ranching community here, and we have seen clear improvements in the range and wildlife habitats since they took over the JS Ranch. We look forward to continuing our work with them to help manage this important landscape."
Protecting JS Ranch and its rich natural resources supports the goals of a number of conservation plans for the state and region, including the Cow Creek Watershed Management Plan, the California State Wildlife Action Plan, and the Cow Creek Conceptual Area Protection Plan (CAPP), which aims to conserve 109,000 acres of private lands within the watershed. Prior to this acquisition, 16,500 acres had been protected within the CAPP boundary through projects completed by the Shasta Land Trust. This easement raises the number of acres protected within the CAPP boundary to more than 22,500 acres â€“ an increase of 36%.
The easement protects more than six miles of perennial stream on Old Cow Creek and Clover Creek that include spawning areas for anadromous fish. These streams are tributaries to the Sacramento River and have been proposed as critical habitat for spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead, both federally-listed threatened species. Fall-run Chinook salmon spawn in Old Cow Creek, and, due in part to recent work on an adjacent ranch by the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, are once again able to reach their traditional spawning beds within JS Ranch on Clover Creek.
"Most of Californiaâ€™s biodiversity is found on privately-owned land, so it is imperative for conservation organizations like ours to work with private landowners," said Kerry Oâ€™Toole, president of ALC. "We greatly appreciate the support of our funding partners and are especially thankful to the McArthurs for helping to conserve and improve this extremely important habitat."
Though the easement is now in place, the American Land Conservancy is continuing to work with the McArthurs on the JS Ranch. Current efforts include improving the irrigation system on the property through a project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This project aims to retain more water in the streams during the summer while maintaining and perhaps even improving the quality of the pasture. The project will also help improve water quality and reduce stream temperatures to be more beneficial to threatened salmon.
"The American Land Conservancy understands that this ranch is our livelihood, and have done a lot to help us improve the long-term viability of both the ranch and the habitat it contains," said Christine McArthur, George McArthurâ€™s wife and co-owner of the ranch. "We are proud we can help not just the fish and wildlife of Shasta County, but also, indirectly, the commercial fishermen up and down the California coast. We are all in this together."
Learn more about the JS Ranch project and see photos here.
Contact: Edward Stanton, Program Manager
415-912-3666 | firstname.lastname@example.org
This project is part of ALCâ€™s Central Valley & Foothills Program, which aims to conserve threatened agricultural and ecological resources in California's Central Valley. ALC has protected more than 31,000 acres in the region since 1990.
American Land Conservancy is a non-profit conservation organization that conserves land for the benefit of people and wildlife. Since its founding in 1990, ALC has conserved nearly 274,000 acres of land and water resources, working landscapes, parks, and wildlife habitat across the country.