Checking in With the Land Trust: Conserving & Connection People to Feather River Lands

By Emily Compton

Feather River Land Trust’s Sierra Valley Preserve, West Entrance. Photo by Jeff Bue

Founded by local residents in 2000, the Feather River Land Trust has grown in lands conserved for public benefit and the programs and events it offers to the community.

From a small circle of volunteers, the land trust has grown into a nationally accredited land trust, 1,100 members strong, and has worked with community-minded landowners to protect more than 70,000 acres of ecologically and culturally important lands throughout the Feather River Watershed for fresh water, wildlife, working ranches, outdoor classrooms, scenic open space, and beloved places.

The Feather River Land Trust protects critical headwaters and habitats for thousands of wildlife and plant species in the Sierra Nevada’s largest watershed, the Feather River—a source of drinking water for 27 million people throughout California.

A rendering of the planned new headquarters and nature center at Sierra Valley Preserve done by Arkin Tilt Architects. Photo provided by Feather River Land Trust.

Another piece of the land trust’s work is outreach and education, through events, its five nature preserves, and its award-winning K-12 Learning Landscapes program. The land trust uses two ways to conserve land: conservation easements with ranching families and other landowners, and outright purchases of land.

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between a landowner and a land trust that permanently protects the land and limits its development to safeguard conservation values such as wetlands, wildlife habitats, sustainable agriculture practices, and historical features.

Landowners continue to own and care for their land, while the scenic open space, water resources, and wildlife habitats conserved benefit all.

The land trust buys land outright when it wants to ensure community access to a beloved place and conserve unique wildlife habitats and cultural resources. The Feather Land Trust owns five preserves throughout the Feather River Watershed: Sierra Valley Preserve, Olsen Barn Meadow in the Almanor Basin, Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley, Leonhardt Ranch Learning Landscape in American Valley, and Mountain Meadows Gateway Preserve near Westwood.

These five properties are open to the public. Learn more about them and get directions on the Feather River Land Trust website.

New Visitor Amenities at the Sierra Valley Preserve

Trail junction with Beckwourth Peak in the background at the Sierra Valley Preserve. Photo by Jeff Bue.

The Sierra Valley Preserve just outside of Beckwourth consists of more than 2,500 acres at the headwaters of the wild and scenic middle fork of the Feather River, where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of the valley and nearly 3 miles of interpretive trails, with incredible birding from the wetland-edge wildlife viewing platform.

Protecting this area was important to the land trust due to its unique habitats, diverse plant and bird life, and location at the headwaters of the middle fork of the Feather River.

Roughly the size of Lake Tahoe, Sierra Valley has the largest complex of wetlands in the Sierra Nevada, while also being home to the greatest diversity and abundance of birds in the entire Sierra.

The Sierra Valley Preserve offers the only public access in Sierra Valley. It is open year-round.

The Feather River Land Trust is working with partners—the Northern Sierra Partnership and The Nature Conservancy—to create a new headquarters and nature center at the preserve. It will be a hub for nature-based recreation, learning, and recreation.

There will be new trails, indoor exhibits and event space, picnic areas, birding blinds, and an outdoor classroom.

With the new facilities and indoor space, the land trust will be able to host events, field trips for local students, volunteer restoration days, and workshops year-round.

The land trust and its partners have four main goals for the preserve: protect natural and cultural resources, connect people to nature, promote ecotourism and economic growth, and collaborate for regional climate resilience.

The Feather River Land Trust and its partners are working to raise $6 million to build the headquarters and nature center facilities, trails, and other amenities for visitors, and have almost met their goal.

Construction is expected to be complete in late 2023, with a grand opening planned for spring 2024. To learn more about the project, visit the Feather River Land Trust website.

Fire Recovery on Conserved Lands

White-faced ibis in the Sierra Valley. Photo by Andrew Wright.

The devastation of last year’s wildfires was felt by everyone in the Northern Sierra and the Feather River Land Trust began work immediately on recovery and restoration efforts on those impacted lands. During the summer of 2021, over one million acres burned in the Feather River region, and 85% of lands conserved by FRLT were impacted by these fires. The Land Trust started a Fire Recovery & Restoration Fund to rapidly scale up their capacity to address wildfire recovery and long-term restoration in the Feather River Watershed.

In the fall, the Land Trust and its team of interdisciplinary experts assessed the impacts of those fires on eighteen properties, totaling 57,000 acres. Now, the Land Trust is working to establish recovery protocols, stabilize the land where needed, and plan for long-term restoration on each property. You can learn more about this work and donate to the Fire Recovery & Restoration Fund by visiting the Feather River Land Trust website.

Connect with the Land Trust

Stay connected and up to date on events and other news:

Follow the Land Trust on Facebook and Instagram.

Subscribe to its eNewsletter.

Attend upcoming events such as the Sierra Valley Art and Ag Trail on Saturday, September 24, or the Field Day at the Heart K Ranch. on Saturday, October 22.

Volunteer your time and expertise.

Become a member by making a donation on the Feather River Land Trust website.