published on February 18, 2016 - 10:11 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

After donation, it just got easier for the public to visit the giant sequoias on Case Mountain in Tulare County.

In a land deal that was ten years in the making, San Francisco-based Save the Redwoods League and Visalia’s Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT) announced this week that the 66-acre Craig Ranch near Three Rivers has been donated to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The two nonprofits donated the property to BLM after purchasing it from the Ollie Craig Trust.

The deal will help permanently protect critical wildlife habitat in an area that will also serve as a gateway to a grove of giant sequoias located on public lands.

“Sequoia Riverlands Trust conceived and shepherded this project over many years, bringing the various parties together,” said Hillary Dustin, SRT’s conservation director.

“Craig Ranch presents an incredible opportunity to enhance conservation and outdoor recreation on surrounding public lands,” said Paul Ringgold, Save the Redwoods League’s chief program officer. “It’s truly a privilege to help people connect with these special places and now, through this partnership, Case Mountain’s giant sequoias are within their reach at last.”

Recreational opportunities now available on the parcel include hiking, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding.

The donated acreage is located about seven miles southeast of Three Rivers and adjacent to 18,530-acre Kaweah Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The lands will now be added to the Case Mountain Extensive Recreation Management Area (ERMA), a popular recreational destination.

In 1993, local rancher Ollie Craig sold 1,000 acres of her property to the BLM. That land was already part of the Case Mountain ACEC and ERMA areas.

“Ollie Craig was a big environmental enthusiast and she was really interested in preserving this land,” said Patsy Barich of Save the Redwoods League.

“These big land deals aren’t as simple as they used to be,” Barich added. “Three organizations worked for a very long time to put this deal together. The work represents the changing face of the way land trust groups operate today.”

The deal was funded, in large part, by private donations from a number of Bay Area and Central Valley environmental advocates, including Dale Lincoln, who Dustin called “the main private sponsor of SRT’s efforts to conserve Craig Ranch.”

Barich said the additional 66 acres will also serve as a buffer zone, protecting residents in the area from having to deal with an anticipated increase in visitor activity.

“Ultimately, when you have good recreational access, more school-age children are also able to visit the area,” Barich said. “And when more younger people get to experience the beauty and grandeur of the big trees, you are going to get better stewards of the land.”

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