Newly-conserved Carrizo lands, Nature Conservancy donation among SRT land gains
(CALIFORNIA VALLEY, CA) - In June SRT closed a new deal for a future Carrizo Plain National Monument in-holding. The newly-protected land is comprised of two small parcels totalling 10.78 acres. The 50-mile-long Carrizo’s biodiversity and prevalence of threatened and endangered species make it an especially key region for conservation gains.
The Carrizo Plain, sometimes referred to as the “Serengeti of California,” was subdivided into small lots decades ago for future developments that never materialized.
With support from Resources Legacy Fund, SRT plays an important role by acquiring and transferring these parcels to the National Monument. As part of a multi-year effort Sequoia Riverlands Trust has been purchasing lands these lands that are not included in the Carrizo Plain National Monument (CPNM) and deeding them over to the Bureau of Land Management. The “in-holding” land purchases are funded by a grant from Resources Legacy Fund, and involve work by the Sequoia Riverlands Trust acquisition team and conservation biologists.
"This effort addresses a large hole in the central-southern part of the Carrizo Plain was left out of the reach of public lands as the National Monument was formed and still contains private land held by diverse interests, including mining interests," said Ben Munger, SRT Director of Mitigation and Land Management. "These parcels require specialized real estate research, sometimes tracking down people who don’t know they own the parcels, then making a market-value offer, and finally monitoring the property for several years before it can be transferred to the Bureau of Land Management."
According to SRT Conservation Biologist and newly-appointed Carrizo Land Steward Ian Axsom, the importance of conserving the private “in-holdings” is because the area separates the Carrizo Plain National Monument from SRT's large mitigation areas in the north. "So protecting these parcels will maintain the connectivity of north Carrizo and central/south Carrizo. This is important for allowing individual animals to move throughout the Carrizo Plain which helps maintain healthy gene flow across the region," Axsom said.
"It's also important for allowing wildlife populations to shift as the north end of Carrizo tends to be wetter than the south end, so during drought conditions some species may do better further north, while during wetter years, those species may do better further south." Axsom said, adding that "with climate change rapidly altering conditions, maintaining connectivity across the Carrizo Plain will give species a greater range of habitat options to choose from, increasing the chances they can persist on the landscape.
According to Munger, the process of acquiring small parcels and conveying them to the CPNM is tedious and time consuming, "but by focusing on contiguous small parcels – two to 10 acres – the strategy is to block up areas for wildlife movement, given limited funding. One such small parcel came to SRT recently resulting from a donation from the Nature Conservancy.
SRT conservation biologists monitor these small parcels for illegal trespass with off-road vehicles and trash dumping. However, monitoring takes place for several years prior to conveyance to the CPNM, and at the same time the real estate phase of the acquisition process continues with research, contacts, and purchasing more land, Munger said. •