Celebration Marks South Yuba Park Expansion (CA)

NEVADA CITY, CA- The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), today formally transferred more than 700 acres of unspoiled forest to public ownership along the state-designated Wild and Scenic River corridor of the South Yuba River.

Honored guest Mary Nichols, Secretary of the California Resources Agency, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), The Sierra Fund, local elected officials and environmental groups all joined the ceremonies to mark the state’s purchase of the prized forestland from TPL for expansion of South Yuba River State Park.

Using a low-interest loan from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, TPL purchased the property, valued at $3.56 million, from SPI nearly a year ago and held the property until the state was able to secure public funding through Proposition 40 for the purchase. The property is part of a popular recreation area attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year.

“The voters of California passed Proposition 40 just eighteen months ago and the Governor is already delivering on its promise of protecting our natural resources,” said Mary D. Nichols, California’s Secretary for Resources, who noted that the Proposition 40 grant also helped generate additional funding from a variety of other public and private sources. “Today, we protect forever a truly beautiful stretch of the Yuba River and place more than 700 acres of land along it into the State parks system for millions of Californians to enjoy and admire. I’d say this is a day to celebrate for the Yuba River, and for California.”

“Permanently protecting this amazing stretch of the South Yuba River was truly a team effort,” said Reed Holderman, Executive Director of the Trust for Public Land-California. “We could not have done it without the help of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and several other organizations including the South Yuba River Citizen’s League and The Sierra Fund. We are grateful to SPI for selling this extraordinary property to us and to State Parks for taking on the long-term stewardship of this special place for public use and enjoyment.”

“Adding more of the South Yuba River Canyon to State Parks to preserve and protect this beautiful canyon is a sound environmental decision,” said State Park’s Director Ruth Coleman, “and, it’s also a good economical decision. We have seen large increases in visitors to this and other state parks and so we need more parklands to support the demand. And more visitors means more visitor spending in the foothill communities at a time when local economies need the boost.”

“Our participation in this effort to set aside a beautiful river canyon reflects our commitment to creating a balance between wild land preservation, economic investment, and responsible forest management,” said A.A. “Red” Emmerson, president of SPI. “This is something important to each of us and results in long-term benefits for all Californians.”

The state’s approval of SPI’s timber harvest plan three years ago triggered public debate regarding the future of the property. In response to the community, SPI signed an agreement with TPL, SYRCL, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, California State Parks, and Nevada County to put the harvest plan on hold and pursue a potential land exchange with the Forest Service or the BLM.

While the agreement expired in December 2000 without securing suitable exchange lands, SPI voluntarily held off logging the property through May of 2002. SPI’s decision to delay the logging gave TPL, SPI, and SYRCL the time needed to negotiate an agreement whereby TPL purchased the property and held it until the state had the funding necessary for its public purchase.

“We are able to do this because we learned to trust each other. What’s been accomplished here is what happens when people work with each other and learn to trust each other,” said Michael Killigrew of SYRCL.

The Sierra Fund, together with TPL, was instrumental in working with the California Resources Agency to secure the voter-approved Proposition 40 funds necessary for the public purchase. Both private and public funds were necessary for the transfer of the property to State Parks for long-term stewardship and public use. As a result of this agreement, SPI will buy productive timberland elsewhere.

“The Sierra Fund is proud to have such tremendous partners on this critical conservation project,” said Shawn Garvey, CEO of The Sierra Fund. “We are continuing to work to increase these types of critical public investments in the land and water resources throughout the Sierra Nevada.”

The purchase agreement is part of a major deal announced in 2001 between SPI and TPL to protect up to 35,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada for public recreation, wildlife habitat, and watershed protection. Sierra Pacific Industries and TPL have been working together since 1989 to exchange or transfer land owned by the forest products company to public ownership. The privately owned lands are parcels that checkerboard the Sierra Nevada river canyons-a legacy of 19th century railroad land grants.

TPL is a national land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people as parks, greenways, wilderness areas and natural, historic, and cultural resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide. TPL’s Sierra Nevada Program has helped protect more than 50,000 acres of critical watershed, recreation, and forestlands in the Sierra Nevada, most recently along the North Fork of the American River. TPL recently researched and published The State of California Rivers, the first-ever report assessing the health of all 80 major rivers in California. For more information find TPL on-line at www.tpl.org or SPI at www.spi-ind.com.