Tenacious land trust overcomes wildfire destruction to complete the 2006 addition to Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

CARBONDALE, Colo., Nov. 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a long-anticipated finale to a 10-year saga, the Wilderness Land Trust has just completed the transfer of the last 640-acre private inholding to the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, located in Northern California between US 101 and Interstate 5 in the Mendocino National Forest.  The path to protection has been nothing short of astounding, including burned buildings, marijuana farmers and federal funding uncertainties.

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The property is the last inholding in the 2006 addition to the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness Area.  The owner had built a two-story, three-bedroom hunting "cabin" and barn on the property, as well as corral and pond improvements.  It took years of negotiations for the Trust to acquire the inholding, which feeds the watershed of the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Eel River, supports habitat for endangered steelhead trout, and contains a section of one of California's finest long white-water runs.  Prior to acquiring this final parcel, the Trust bought and donated to the United States two other inholdings in the Yolla Bolly owned by the same family.  This was the crown jewel and the inclusion of all three of these parcels means that 15 miles of road within the wilderness has also been retired. 

Just before the Trust was planning to transfer the inholding to the Forest Service for inclusion into the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel wilderness, the 2012 North Pass Fire hit the property and burned all of the structures to the ground.  

As Reid Haughey, President of WLT explains, "This acquisition was plagued by fires all-around.  Not only did the property devalue 15% overnight from the North Pass Fire, but the stress that firefighting put on the Forest Service budget the following year meant that we almost lost the funds Congress had set aside for the acquisition."

"Only through the strong support of dedicated Forest Service staff were we able to complete this sale and pay back our loyal lender," said Aimee Rutledge, California Program Manager.  "From a wilderness perspective, the Yolla Bolly was a very good thing.  From a financial perspective – well, we can say we lived to save more Wilderness another day!"

In addition to the challenges posed by the fire, the Wilderness Land Trust had to deal with illegal marijuana farming.  "We had to arrange for a local monitor to regularly visit the land, because there had been a lot of illicit pot farming activity in the area and this property included flat secluded sites with water, a perfect environment for cultivation," explained Reid Haughey, WLT President. 

"We are proud to return this property back to its wilderness values, to protect the surrounding Wilderness as a refuge and to provide wildlife a place to thrive during a changing climate," said Aimee Rutledge, California Program Manager.  Containing a wide range of elevation from 2,700 to 8,000 feet, the Yolla-Bolly provides critical habitat for species adapting to climate change.

The US Forest Service, Mendocino National Forest manages the section of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness containing the Leech Lake Property.  "The Mendocino National Forest is proud to work with the Wilderness Land Trust to bring this property into the National Forest System and the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations," said Sherry Tune, Forest Supervisor of the Mendocino National Forest. 

The Wilderness Land Trust is applying its tenacity to other land parcels around California, including land in northern California in the Castle Crags Wilderness, on the central coast in the Ventana Wilderness, in the Sierras in the John Muir Wilderness and in Southern California in the San Jacinto Wilderness—stay tuned for our next acquisition!

Background

Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

The part of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness surrounding the Leech Lake Mountain property was added in 2006.  Between the North and South Yolla Bolly Mountains, this Wilderness now contains 181,510 acres of rugged headwater country of the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Eel River which provides habitat for steelhead trout and important habitat for species adapting to climate change.  Chamise and manzanita in the lower elevations give way to dense arrays of pine and fir cloaking numerous ridges.  The Middle Eel river crashes wildly through the Wilderness in a deep canyon for approximately six miles, and, combined with sections of the 48 miles of river outside the Wilderness, forms what is arguably California's finest long white-water run. Vast grasslands open many of the steep hillsides. Summer wildflowers dramatically color large mountain meadows. Bear and deer populate the area in relative abundance.  Most of the Wilderness stands on national forestland, but a section on the western side (7,100 acres) is situated on Bureau of Land Management land.

The Wilderness Land Trust

The Wilderness Land Trust is a small, highly specialized nonprofit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since it was founded in 1992, the non-profit organization has preserved more than 373 parcels comprising of more than 38,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 88 designated and proposed wilderness areas. The Wilderness Land Trust, a 501 (c)(3) organization, has offices in California, Colorado and Washington State.  For more information visit our website www.wildernesslandtrust.org.

The Wilderness Land Trust is a 1% for the Planet Non-Profit Partner.  Visit www.onepercentfortheplanet.org for more information.

The US Forest Service-Mendocino National Forest

Straddling the eastern spur of the Coastal Mountain Range in northwestern California, the 913,000 acre Mendocino National Forest is the only National Forest in California not crossed by a paved road or highway. Four Wilderness Areas cover approximately one third of the Forest, providing visitors with a multitude of opportunities to get out and enjoy the solitude of this spectacular and diverse region of California.   More information regarding opportunities to enjoy the Mendocino National Forest may be found at www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino.

Contact: Aimee Rutledge, California Program Manager
415.606.5895, aimee@wildernesslandtrust.org
www.wildernesslandtrust.org

SOURCE The Wilderness Land Trust



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http://www.wildernesslandtrust.org

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