Wildlake Ranch, 3,045 acres in the mountains of Napa County east of Calistoga, extends from near the floor of the north end of Napa Valley to the summit of Three Peaks, 2,800 feet above sea level. It has been used mainly for deer hunting for the last 30 years, but has great biological diversity and contains more than a dozen types of vegetation communities.
In April, the Conservancy approved $2 million to the Land Trust of Napa County to contribute toward the purchase price of nearly $19 million. The balance was to come from a grant from the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, a loan from the Packard Foundation, and donations from individuals. The Nature Conservancy has declared the property a "core conservation area." The land trust requested that the Coastal Conservancy divert its funds to this purchase from another project that became infeasible. The land trust hopes to transfer title and management to State Parks.
Wildlake Ranch has five perennial springs, three major creeks, and high-quality obsidian outcrops that were once used by indigenous people. Parts of the property were logged or used for cattle grazing, but not since the 1970s. The land has great potential for trails, and if adjacent "school lands" (property held in trust by the State for the benefit of public schools) managed by the State Lands Commission can be included in the land trust's plans, the property could be linked to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to the north. A ten-year lease of the school lands to the Department of Fish and Game expired in 2002, and the land trust is trying to make sure those lands remain protected and accessible to the public.
Sears Point Restoration Plans
The Conservancy approved $1 million in Proposition 50 funds to the Sonoma Land Trust for various studies and plans for the Sears Point Restoration Project. The 2,327-acre Sears Point property lies between the mouth of the Petaluma River and Tolay Creek on the north shore of San Pablo Bay, and includes about 1,400 acres of diked agricultural lands and alluvial fans, and about 900 acres of uplands sloping to elevations of 400 feet. This portion of the once-vast tidal baylands was diked off for hay farms in the late 19th century, but has recently been recognized as a key area for restoration of historic wetlands. The Sears Point property is an essential stopover for migratory birds, and is home to many rare and endangered species, including burrowing owls, golden eagles, and the San Pablo Bay song sparrow.
The funds approved by the Conservancy in April will enable the land trust to prepare restoration plans, environmental reviews, designs and specifications, and to apply for all permits needed for the project. For a brief time recently these baylands seemed destined to be developed for a casino. Faced with strong opposition, the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria instead donated their $4 million purchase option to the land trust which, with help from the Conservancy and other organizations, foundations, and private donors, was able to acquire the property in 2004.