A Love For The Land

Cows standing in a field.
At the Sierra Valley Preserve, FRLT partners with a fifth-generation Sierra Valley family to sustainably graze the upland portion of the protected property. Photo Courtesy Of Feather River Land Trust

By Emily Compton

Paul Hardy’s love for the Sierra Valley prompted him to found the Feather River Land Trust in 2000, after returning to Portola with a biology degree. With the neighboring city of Reno growing, more and more land in the Sierra Valley was being converted to other uses. Paul and others felt the need to try and preserve some of the open space and ranchlands and the important species that depend on the habitat and the headwaters of the Feather River Watershed.

The Feather River Land Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving ecologically and culturally significant lands throughout the Feather River Watershed. The FRLT uses two ways to conserve land: i) conservation easements and ii) outright purchases of land. Most of the Feather River Land Trust’s protected land is through conservation easements with private landowners. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently defines how the land can be used and limits development in order to safeguard its conservation values like wetlands, wildlife habitats, rare plant communities, sustainable agriculture practices, and historical features. The owners of the land continue to own and use the land and are also able to sell it or pass it down to heirs.

The outright purchase of land is much how it sounds. Sometimes FRLT purchases land outright to guarantee community access to cherished lands and to manage the land for ecological and community benefit.

Land management is also an important part of the Feather River Land Trust’s mission. Once land has been protected by either a purchase or a conservation easement, the Land Trust works to manage, restore, and enhance its natural and cultural resources, now and for future generations. Their stewardship team works in a variety of ways such as working directly on the land, partnering with local cattle ranching operations to graze lands, and doing restoration projects like wetland fencing and invasive weed removal. FRLT also works collaboratively with other conservation organizations and landowners to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the lands.

Young children with shovels on a trail in a forest.
Students from Portola participate in FRLT’s Learning Landscapes program doing trail maintenance. Photo Courtesy Of Feather River Land Trust

Feather River Land Trust’s K-12 Learning Landscapes program aims to encourage kids to connect with nature throughout the school year through hands-on learning on FRLT protected lands. This program is successful due to the partnerships the Land Trust has with local teachers, school districts, and communities. FRLT is committed to providing natural outdoor classroom r all public schools in the region to use.

At present, the FRLT owns five preserves throughout the Feather River Watershed: the Sierra Valley Preserve, The Olsen Barn Meadow in the Almanor Basin, The Heart K Ranch in the Genesee Valley, the Leonhardt Ranch Learning Landscape in American Valley, and the Mountain Meadows Gateway Preserve near Westwood. These five properties are open to the public. You can learn more about them as well as get directions on their website.

Currently, one of the FRLT’s main projects is to conserve wetland habitat and working ranches in the Sierra Valley. The valley is more than 120,000 acres, roughly the size of Lake Tahoe, and is not just a significant place for local agriculture but also is home to vital wetlands that form the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Feather River and support the greatest diversity and concentration of birds in the northern Sierra. More than 40,000 acres of the Sierra Valley have been conserved by ranching families with conservation easements by working with a variety of land trusts including FRLT, the California Rangeland Trust, and the Pacific Forest Trust.

The Feather River Land Trust’s work does not stop at just conserving land. A main part of their work also includes helping restore people’s relationship to the land. Whether through improved access to lands, educational material about the history of lands, or participating in volunteer events, the Land Trust is always working to foster lasting relationships to these protected lands. They see this relationship as critical to community health, building a conservation and stewardship ethic in our communities, and ensuring the long-term success and viability of land conservation.

There are many ways to get involved with the FRLT.

  • Stay connected with events and other news by following them on Facebook and Instagram or subscribe to their eNewsletter.
  • Attend upcoming events (due to COVID- 19, no in-person events are planned for the summer of 2020).
  • Volunteer your time and expertise.
  • Become a member by making a donation on their website.

For more information, visit Feather River Land Trust’s website or call (530) 283-5758.