The ARC aims to purchase two properties — the 1,737-acre Ervin Ranch and a 3,157-acre portion of the El Dorado Ranch — both near the Cosumnes River west of Highway 49. The ranches have a combined price tag of $4.68 million, but 96 percent of the costs have been secured so far. The remaining 4 percent, or $200,000, is needed before escrow closes late next month.
According to an appeal letter from the conservancy, they seek to protect this area in particular because the Cosumnes River is “one of the last undammed rivers on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.”
ARC director Alan Ehrgott said the river has historically provided a run for Chinook salmon and central valley steelhead, which currently spawn below Latrobe Falls. The properties total just over 3 miles of riverfront and riparian area. If purchased, the ranch land would connect already-purchased pieces to form 5,000 acres of wildlife habitat, Ehrgott said Monday, adding that this area would be the largest contiguous blue oak woodland in the central northern Sierra region.
Fauna like the Western pond turtle, bald eagles, golden eagles and an extensive list of other species also call the ranch area home.
If the land is purchased, it will eventually include trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking, Ehrgott said, though the installation process will take two or three years. The conservancy would like to put in a trail reaching from Highway 49 down to Latrobe Road, he said, though the decision ultimately falls upon the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will own and manage the land.
An 1860s historic ranch is also on the property, with a barn, a house, fences and rock walls still standing. Ehrgott anticipated these sites would be left within the wildlife area.
Though the El Dorado Ranch is used today to graze cattle, Ehrgott said it was acquired by a developer in 1989 who wished to turn it into a subdivision named Cinnabar. The controversial project ran into hangups, including an Amador County lawsuit and environmental reports that identified archaeological resources. The project never came to fruition before the developer passed away and the property was sold to its current owner.
As for whether the conservancy plans to hold any more fundraisers to reach their $200,000 goal, Ehrgott said they’ve turned over every rock they could and are now counting on generosity from community members. Historically, he said, the conservancy has managed to eke out those last few dollars and close the deal on an acquisition. Sometimes donations are hundreds of thousands of dollars, but many are contributions of around $20, Ehrgott said.
“We’re close, we’re within 4 percent of our purchase price and we have about two months,” Ehrgott said Friday, “so we’re just kind of doing the best we can, rolling up our sleeves and digging in.”
The bulk of support secured so far comes from a $2.5 million State Wildlife Conservation Board grant and $850,000 from the California Natural Resources Agency. Ehrgott said the landowner pitched in a $500,000 discount on the property. $500,000 more came from the California Wildlife Foundation, while the El Dorado County Oak Woodland Program and the ARC itself contributed $63,250 and $66,750 respectively.
Those interested in donating can do so online at www.arconservancy.org or by mailing checks to the American River Conservancy, P.O. Box 562, Coloma, CA 95613.
Photo Credit: Mackensie Myers.
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