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Good news for public lands in California

More land, such as the Excelsior property in Smartsville, is being saved from development. Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

Falling real estate prices and stalled development have created opportunities for national and state non-profit organizations like the Conservation Fund, Save the Redwoods League and the Trust for Public Land to acquire thousands of acres in California at bargain prices.

“The bright spot is that there are opportunities that we haven’t seen before, with lands on the market that are priorities for conservation,” said Brent Handley, the western division transaction director for the San Francisco’s Trust for Public Land. “And there are prices that we haven’t seen before. We’re looking at values that have decreased 50 or 60 percent since 2007.”

In some cases, the owners are selling easements instead.

Hard economic times have opened up a new dynamic in environmental protection whereby preservation groups are buying easements that require the land owners to restore habitat and refrain from development. These conservation easements allow ranchers to keep ranching and timber companies to keep logging as long as they use environmentally sustainable techniques and the land is preserved.

Some of the places saved from development include the former Bruin Ranch, now Harvego Bear River Preserve; Yuba Narrows Ranch; and Usal Redwood Forest.

  • Bobby Scott

    California is a great state. There is a lot of diversity here and a lot of progressive thought. However the state government is so bloated with both bureaucracy and unmanageable pensions that it is hard to imagine it getting out of the hole it is in. The state will have to make almost radical reforms to how it manages government worker benefits.

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