The Lake County Land Trust (LCLT) and its supporters are jumping for joy at its most recent news. A property that LCLT has actively been working to conserve since 2018 is now officially under LCLT’s perpetual protection. On June 1, the property now known as the Wright Wetland Preserve, became “forever wild”. It brings LCLT’s holdings up to five properties and more than 600 acres under its protective purview.
The addition of the Wright Wetland Preserve is a big win for LCLT’s the Big Valley Wetlands (BVW) Project. It complements the Melo Property, also part of the BVW Project, which was purchased in 2016. LCLT’s focus is on adding contiguous properties in the Big Valley to increase its impact on the vitality of this wetland area.
A smidge over 200 acres, the Wright Wetland Preserve is easily the largest of LCLT’s portfolio. Its terrain ranges from lake to valley oak woodland with everything from native wetland, freshwater marsh, and upland pasture included. The property is partially bordered by Manning Creek, an important breeding ground for an endemic and threatened fish species, the Clear Lake hitch. Although key to the ecosystem of the lake, hitch numbers have been diminishing over the last few decades. Encouraging its population to return to former levels creates a ripple effect, benefiting birds, other fish, and wildlife. Riparian and wetland rehabilitation— which LCLT plans for this wetland preserve—is necessary for maintaining the sustainability and biological diversity of Clear Lake.
Some of the wildlife observed on this property include white pelicans, otter, black-tailed deer, California quail, wild turkey, prairie falcon and other raptors, white pelicans, herons, black bass, catfish, mink, and bobcat.
Expressing her gratitude, LCLT Board President Val Nixon explains, “From Bernie and Lynne Butcher who donated a $40,000 matching gift challenge, which inspired our community of supporters to rise to the occasion, to Peter Windrem, who facilitated the initial contacts with the Wright family, we have so many people to thank.” Nixon went on, “Stacy Schummer pleasantly surprised us with a large monetary gift which brought the fundraising to a very grand finale. Thank you to everyone who saw the value of protecting this essential wetland and donated to its protection.” Nixon also noted, “We want to express appreciation to our LCLT staff: Tom Smythe, Executive Director, handled complicated escrow hiccups and was able to bring the project to conclusion with Melissa Kinsel and Anne Martin, (Development and Finance Directors, respectively) working on reaching out to donors and careful fiscal oversight. This was definitely an ‘all hands on deck’ type of project.”
In total, $120,000 was raised from donations by individuals to go toward the purchase of the property.
In 2012-14, the Lake County Land Trust developed the Big Valley Wetlands Conceptual Area Protection Plan (CAPP), a document that underwent extensive review, revisions, and consequent adoption by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This agreement made several hundred acres of property in the Big Valley area of Clear Lake’s shoreline eligible for grant funding. The Big Valley Wetland area is valued by the CDFW and the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) as preservation-priority because of its effect on the health of Clear Lake and surrounding watershed. The rest of the property’s $775,000 price tag came from grants from WCB.
The next phase of the Wright Wetland preserve is to restore its wetlands and tules to their natural state and create public access areas and trails. “We want all Lake Countians to be able to enjoy this landscape and appreciate its importance. Next steps will include fundraising for these stewardship initiatives.” Nixon concludes, “I have the greatest respect for the people of Lake County for recognizing the importance of critical wildlands and helping preserve them into the future.”
After LCLT announced the acquisition to its membership, members of the Wright family emailed LCLT to express their support and happiness at having their family property become a family legacy for all Lake Countians to enjoy. For maps and other information about the property, including a list of the “strong and diverse” community of supporters who helped LCLT achieve their goal, please visit their website at http://www.lakecountylandtrust.org/.