Private Lands Program
The goal of Siskiyou Land Conservancy’s Private Lands Program is to protect biological diversity and habitat on privately owned lands in the five-county region we serve (Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, Trinity and Del Norte).
Siskiyou Land Conservancy works with willing sellers to acquire private lands or to develop conservation easements to protect lands under existing ownership. We actively explore regions containing critical habitat and contact private land owners to explore options for protecting their properties.
We are specifically devoted to protecting the Smith River, in the far northwestern corner of California.
In addition to protecting habitat, Siskiyou Land Conservancy is dedicated to creating or adding to wildlife migration corridors. Where appropriate, we also protect land suitable for public access and recreation.
Currently Siskiyou Land Conservancy protects five properties and 624 acres of privately held critical habitat in Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties.
South Fork Eel River
In December 2011 Siskiyou Land Conservancy protected 73 acres along a year-round creek that feeds the important spawning habitat of the Wild and Scenic South Fork Eel River. The easement is also important because the land is adjacent to two ancient redwood “islands” and thus provides important habitat connectivity.
Despite the region’s extensive and sparsely populated private land holdings, there is very little protected private property in the Redway area. The easement protects excellent redwood habitat, and is adjacent to two state-owned redwood groves in the Redway area. The adjacent groves are Whittemore Grove (250 acres) and Stable Slopes Grove (581 acres). Nearby are Holbrook Grove (300 acres) and O’Meara Grove (under 50 acres).
All four of these state-protected redwood groves contain ancient forest habitat, with some of areas being pristine and “unentered” by machinery, development or logging. These state groves comprise the John B. DeWitt State Reserve, a designation that provides one of the highest levels of protection available in the state park system. SLC’s protection of the private parcel adds a critical component to this network of publicly owned forest groves.
The state-owned forest groves fall within the Richardson Grove State Park complex, which provides the largest ancient redwood habitat between Humboldt Redwoods State Park, fifteen miles north, and Big Basin State Park, in Santa Cruz County. Due to the isolated and scattered nature of the Richardson Grove habitat, adjacent properties, such as the land now protected by Siskiyou Land Conservancy, become increasingly important for maintenance of wildlife habitat and migration corridors, for protection of clean water sources for salmon and steelhead, and for plant populations dependent on the redwood forest ecosystem.
South Fork Smith River
- Siskiyou Land Conservancy and a private landowner utilized a conservation easement to protect 148 acres on the Wild and Scenic South Fork Smith River, in Del Norte County.
The conservation easement protects the easternmost redwoods on the Smith River, as well as the largest privately held flat on the South Fork Smith River.
The property is one of the first private parcels downstream of the Siskiyou Wilderness.
In 2011 Siskiyou Land Conservancy completed Phase I of an extensive forest restoration project on the protected property. Phase II will begin in June 2012.
Western Mendocino County
In late 2009 Siskiyou Land Conservancy recorded a conservation easement that permanently protects 163 acres of privately owned second-growth redwood forestland and meadows in western Mendocino County.
The two parcels, near Elk, stretch from a rolling ridgetop to a significant salmonid stream, and feature extensive redwood groves, including some of the oldest second-growth forest in the county. The conservation easement also protects scattered “residual” old-growth redwood trees and unentered stands of old-growth Douglas fir.
The land’s elegant ridgetop meadows are noteworthy. They remain undeveloped in a region of coastal Mendocino County that is otherwise highly desirable for large ridgetop homes and vineyards. The easement allows just one new dwelling, and the possible expansion of an existing dwelling, on the entire 163 acres.
This easement disallows subdivision, commercial logging, road building and other potentially harmful uses, including application of pesticides. It protects more than one-half mile of a large creek that provides habitat for salmon and steelhead, and another half-mile of a smaller creek that provides clear water year-round.
Preserving the meadows protects native grasses, which are returning to the land after the owners removed sheep from the property when they bought the land 40 years ago. The meadows also provide habitat for coyote mint (Monardella villosa), which the state of California lists as a “threatened species.”
Stony Creek/North Fork Smith River
In 2004 Siskiyou Land Conservancy purchased a pristine 80-acre parcel of rare plant habitat at the confluence of Stony Creek and the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River, in Del Norte County. Each year SLC hosts hundreds of students and plant enthusiasts at this internationally unique botanical treasure, found alongside one of the wildest and cleanest rivers in the United States.
Botanists have discovered not one or two butthree carnivorous plants living side by side in the Stony Creek watershed, which is also the only roadless tributary to the North Fork Smith River . Also found at Stony Creek are the western bog violet and a dozen other rare plants including the lovely McDonald’s rockcress, listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Stony Creek, it turns out, is a gateway to one of the world’s most unique botanical communities.
In 2006 Siskiyou Land Conservancy’s Stony Creek acquisition earned a special commendation from the California Coalition of Land Trusts.
McCoy Creek/South Fork Eel River
Not long ago the Eel River was one of the greatest salmon streams on the West Coast of the United States. Today the river is a shadow of its former self, with once deep holes (some nearly 100 feet deep in places) filled by massive aggradation caused by logging and associated road building. The river has warmed to temperatures lethal to salmon, spawning beds are choked with silt, and during summer the lower river and its tributaries actually run dry in places.
Yet the Eel River remains one of California’s five most important streams for endangered Coho salmon. In 2005 Siskiyou Land Conservancy acquired 160 acres of critical Coho spawning habitat on McCoy Creek, in northern Mendocino County. Our two parcels contain one mile of the McCoy Creek drainage, and spawning occurs on the property.
Sustainable Communities Program
Siskiyou Land Conservancy’s Sustainable Communities Program is intended to complement our efforts to protect privately held parcels containing rare and unique habitat values. That is, while protection of habitat is important unto itself, reducing human consumption of vital natural resources greatly increases the effectiveness of such wildland protection.
Influencing local planning efforts, especially around development of housing and business infrastructures, and transportation, is an important conservation goal of Siskiyou Land Conservancy’s Sustainable Communities Program.
Another important means of reducing resource consumption is to grow food locally. Siskiyou Land Conservancy supports local farming efforts, and is helping to develop gardens projects for schools and communities.
Jacoby Creek School Garden
In April 2009, SLC’s Sustainable Communities Program launched a student-run garden at Jacoby Creek School in Arcata, Humboldt County. The City of Arcata partnered with SLC on the Jacoby Creek project, as did Living Earth Landscapes, Ohana Organics and Sandy Bar Ranch and Nursery. Siskiyou Land Conservancy received a $2,500 start-up grant for the garden from the California Instructional School Garden Program. The project has added to growing local interest in school and community gardens.
Public Lands Program
Orleans Community Fuels Reduction Project
Siskiyou Land Conservancy has partnered with other North Coast conservation groups to shape policy and projects on public lands. A success occurred with the Orleans Community Fuels Reduction Project, on the Klamath River in Humboldt County. Over nearly four years SLC worked to transform this project from an industrial logging plan with 14 miles of new roads to an actual forest health project with under 1 mile of new roads.
Siskiyou Land Conservancy has worked to protect habitat on the Klamath River, one of the three most important salmon streams on the West Coast. Whether through dam removal or working to return water to the Scott and Shasta Rivers, among other projects, the Klamath is one of the most “recoverable” or impaired large watersheds in North America. Siskiyou Land Conservancy’s work on the Scott and Shasta Rivers was featured on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle (Sep. 13, 2009).