Land purchase near Idyllwild protects PCT views

On April 2, the Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Forest Service finalized the purchase of 808 acres within the boundaries of the San Bernardino National Forest, south of Idyllwild, in Southern California. The $2.65 million Fleming Ranch purchase permanently protects views from the Pacific Crest Trail, which is within a quarter mile.

It also includes 160 acres within the San Jacinto Wilderness and increases the opportunity to provide new access routes to the wilderness area, the PCT, and the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument. About 20 million people live in the six surrounding Southern California counties.

“Protecting views from the PCT is an important part of our land protection goal for the trail and these lands provide the last area of protection as the PCT traverses the ridgeline above two remote, unspoiled basins,” said Mike Dawson, Trail Operations Director for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “We thank our partners – the Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Forest Service – for their continued efforts to include the PCT in their work to secure these valuable properties on behalf of the public.”

This property provides habitat for four endangered species including the least Bell’s vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher, mountain yellow-legged frog, and San Bernardino bluegrass. Eight other sensitive species, including the California spotted owl, are known to live here. The land provides suitable habitat for other species such as the San Bernardino flying squirrel.

IMG_7070

Fleming Ranch provides important connectivity between Garner Valley, May Valley and the San Jacinto Wilderness.  This purchase protects a continuous corridor in rugged terrain to over 6,000 feet of elevation, allowing species to move in response to the impact of climate change.

This acquisition also protects the pristine upper reaches of Herkey Creek Watershed, including nearly a mile of Herkey Creek, multiple tributary creeks, and several large meadows. Herkey Creek is the main tributary to Lake Hemet and the South Fork of the San Jacinto River, ultimately providing drinking water to Riverside County users. Development of this area likely would have affected the health of this prime watershed.

After efforts by a number of third parties to work with the owners, the Trust for Public Land entered into an option to acquire the property. TPL held the property in trust. Ultimately, the U.S. Forest Service secured Land & Water Conservation Fund dollars and other federal funds to pay for it.

More than 200 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail are still held by private landowners, and there are many “viewshed properties” surrounding the trail that, if purchased on the public’s behalf, would enhance the trail experience for hikers and horseback riders. It’s one of PCTA’s 2014-17 Strategic Plan goals to significantly accelerate the pace of land protection. We will do this by establishing partnerships with land trusts, raising private money, lobbying for continued government spending on land, and establishing our own capacity for continued work in this area.

Protecting the PCT for today’s users and future generations is complex work, and securing the remaining private parcels and PCT viewshed properties is no exception. PCTA is the only nonprofit dedicated solely to protecting the trail. We cannot do this important work without financial support. This is the work supported by your membership in PCTA.

FLEMING-RANCH---PHASE-1

 

Author: Mark Larabee

Mark Larabee is the PCTA's Associate Director of Communications and Marketing. He is editor of the "PCT Communicator" magazine and manages the association's advocacy efforts. He is co-author of "The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America's Wilderness Trail" published in 2016. Larabee is a journalist, part of a team who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for The Oregonian newspaper. He hiked the PCT across Oregon for a 2005 series for the paper and has been with PCTA since 2010. He lives in Portland.