11,400-Acre Klamath Valley Ranch 'Protected'
Oregon - The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation group, announced today it has protected the 11,400-acre Drew's Valley Ranch from development with a voluntary land protection agreement known as a conservation easement. The ranch is located 70 miles east of Klamath Falls, in an area of southern Oregon, which has seen increased development pressure.
The conservation easement was transferred to the Oregon Rangeland Trust for long-term management, TPL said. The project creates the largest conservation easement in Oregon held by a land trust. Traditional ranching practices will continue, but the land cannot be subdivided or developed.
The region has long been known for for uninterrupted views and wide-open spaces. As in many parts of rural Oregon, the demand for land subdivision and development of "ranchettes" is reducing the amount of land available for agriculture. According to the American Farmland Trust, 55 million acres of agricultural land were lost in the United States between 1987 and 1997 and Oregon lost 350,000 acres.
Jack and Bev Sparrowk, owners of the ranch, wanted to ensure their land would be permanently protected. In 2001, they helped form the Oregon Rangeland Trust (ORT), to preserve the state's traditional ranchland and protect it from subdivision and development. Modeled after the California Rangeland Trust, ORT is governed by ranchers who have firsthand knowledge of ranching practices, challenges, and resource needs.
"Ranching is a way of life that we can no longer take for granted. It is our responsibility and privilege to help make sure this beautiful landscape and its agricultural heritage are not destroyed," said Jack Sparrowk.
ORT Board President Larry Rew said, "Protecting Drew's Valley is a major victory for all of Oregon. It helps sustain our economic and agriculture base while protecting the natural beauty of the place we call home." The Drew's Valley project is the first of what ORT hopes to be a series of such efforts to support the agricultural way of life in Oregon. ORT's next steps include implementing long-term stewardship on Drew's Valley Ranch, looking for new projects with positive conservation impacts and expanding the pool of funding sources for such projects.
Working with TPL, the Sparrowks sold a conservation easement on their land. Conservation easements provide a legal mechanism to pay the landowner to relinquishdevelopment rights and ensures that natural resources will be protected. By selling an easement, ranchers, farmers, and foresters can stabilize their finances and continue to own their land.
TPL Oregon Field Office Director Geoff Roach said, "The Oregon Rangeland Trust and the Sparrowks are the leaders in the effort to protect rural Oregon's agricultural way of life and beautiful landscape. Their vision and leadership will help pave the way for continued conservation of our natural resources."
The 11,400-acre ranch is surrounded by the Fremont National Forest and includes nine miles of streams, eight tributary creeks, a lake, and grassy wetlands. The ranch is to more than 185 species of birds, fish, and mammals, including the bald eagle and red-band trout. Through the provisions of the easement, this important habitat will also be permanently protected.
Money for the easement was provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).
NRCS administers the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, which provides grants for agricultural conservation easements. The use of the NRCS funds for this projected was strongly supported by Rep Greg Walden, R-Oregon, and Sen. Gordeon Smith, R-Oregon.
OWEB administers the spending of state lottery money to conservation efforts that protect Oregon's watershed resources. The state money was matched by federal money.
NFWF provides grants to projects that benefit conservation education, habitat protection and restoration, and natural resource management. NFWF was instrumental in assisting the Oregon Cattlemen's Association to form the Oregon Rangeland Trust. The intent of the effort was to create an entity that could both provide natural resource stewardship but also be responsive to management issues associated with a working ranch.
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.5 million acres of land in 46 states. In Oregon and along the Columbia River Gorge, TPL has protected more than 75,000 acres. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission. For more information, please visit www.tpl.org.
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