2,299 acres near Beale protected
More than 2,200 acres of open space near Beale Air Force Base and Loma Rica will remain that way after the state Wildlife Conservation Board approved a pair of land transfers and purchases Thursday.
In one transaction, 679 acres west of Los Verjeles Road and north of Loma Rica Road will be added to the Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area, while the second will create a conservation easement on 1,620 acres east of Beale previously designated for the defunct Yuba Highlands project. The two deals total about $3.8 million.
The latter property, mostly oak woodland and undeveloped grasslands, will be added to a buffer around the base.
In an email, board Executive Director John Donnelly said because the property is a conservation easement, it won't have public access.
"The project aims to enhance wildlife connectivity corridors and prohibit development which would impact existing wildlife and habitat conservation values on already protected lands in the immediate vicinity," Donnelly said.
The US Department of Defense, Trust for Public Land and the state Department of Fish and Game combined for the $1.1 million purchase price.
Assemblyman Dan Logue, a proponent of Yuba Highlands when he was a Yuba County supervisor, said putting the land under Fish and Game is a good outcome.
"It's a good buffer for the base," said Logue, R-Loma Rica. "The move strengthens the base's ability to stay."
But Logue said he also hopes the easement will allow some public access.
"There's been almost a jihad in this state of public land being cut off from the public," he said.
A Beale spokesman said a buffer is important.
"We obviously want to continue to do those easements to make sure development doesn't encroach on the missions around the base," said Capt. Brian Wagner.
If Beale wants to add missions, he said, more development nearby might have an effect. Other bases with development up to their fences often get complaints about noise and safety as a result, he said.
Yuba Highlands, envisioned as a master-planned community of as many as 5,100 homes on 2,900 acres, ran into opposition, culminating in a voter initiative rejecting the plan in 2008.
Two years later, the property owner announced plans to convert the entire project's acreage into conservation easements, starting with 700 acres.
There's a better likelihood of public access to the other county property the board signed off on Thursday, with the Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area already open for passive use, said Erik Vink of the not-for-profit Trust for Public Land, which was involved with both buys.
Vink, the group's Central Valley project manager, said what's known as Quail Valley Ranch is a good fit for the wildlife area as habitat for endangered deer and because it has three miles of creekside frontage.
"It's critical winter range for the Mooretown deer herd and other species of concern," Vink said.
He said trust officials began negotiating with the ranch's owner to add the land to the wildlife area, and a grant from the state covered the $2.74 million purchase.
Fish and Game will manage the added property, Vink said, but a plan for how people can access it will still need to be developed.