Land Trust Working Group Strategic Initiatives
The Land Trust Working Group’s strategic initiatives for the Blue Ridge Berryessa Natural Area (BRBNA) focus on three core areas: Wildlife Habitat, Agriculture, and Recreation. These focus areas arose from a strategic planning process and the “BRBNA Conservation Framework” which recognized population growth as a preeminent threat to the region. Growth is likely to intensify development on existing agricultural and wild lands and increase densities in adjacent urban and suburban areas. Poorly planned development could damage the integrity of the region’s wildlife habitat, the viability of working ranches, and the potential for maintaining and enhancing outdoor recreation. The strategic initiatives will involve a long-term collaborative effort, involving communication and outreach efforts to connect private and public landowners and land trust organizations to regional conservation opportunities.
Wildlife Habitat and Corridors
The BRBNA is a biologically diverse area that includes concentrations of rare species and globally significant plant communities. The region supports a variety of ecological communities including serpentine chaparral, grasslands, oak woodlands, and extensive riparian and cliff habitats. Contiguous ranches and natural areas in the region provide unfragmented habitat for the movement of large mammals, like mountain lions, bears, and deer. Effects of growth on wild lands include loss of habitat, introduction of exotic species that threaten native species, severed wildlife corridors, and degraded water quality.
Healthy rangelands support wildlife habitat and provide forage for cattle and sheep, and are essential to economic viability of rural communities in the BRBNA. Cattle ranching is the most common use of private lands – approximately 45% of the region, or over 300,000 acres, is actively grazed (on both private and public lands). The BRBNA is home to several large ranching operations, some of which have been in continuous family ownership for several generations. Poor soils, limited water, and remoteness have suppressed competition from other land uses, allowing these ranches to remain economically viable. Effects of growth on working landscapes include loss or subdivision of existing ranches, land use conflicts and increased land values that can make the economics of ranching unsustainable and conservation purchases more difficult.
Recreation – Public Access/Trails
Outdoor recreation and tourism is an economic driver in the BRBNA. The region’s public lands and waters draw visitors who seek the wide variety of nature-based, resource-compatible activities. These include hiking through the scenic and varied terrain; lakeside and remote camping; biking and horseback riding along miles of less-traveled roads; fishing, canoeing and kayaking in lakes and creeks; swimming, boating and water-skiing at Lake Berryessa; and white water rafting in Cache Creek. Effects of growth on recreation include overcrowding, which can diminish visitor enjoyment, and lost opportunities for nature-based recreation and connectivity. Enhancing public access can reduce pressure on existing access areas. In addition, improving trail access to key destinations and connections to regional trails inside and outside the BRBNA would improve local tourism.