Conservation Easement at Winje's Farm Conservation Easement

January 20, 2010

Audubon teams with private landowners to protect bird habitat in Surprise Valley Important Bird Area

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 3:03 pm

Surprise Valley, Calif. – As part of its work with private landowners in one of California’s most remote, but nonetheless ecologically important regions, Audubon California recently helped place a second conservation easement on a ranch in the Surprise Valley – located in the extreme northeastern corner of California, bordering Oregon and Nevada.
The Winje Ranch rests along the shores of Upper Alkali Lake and contains important wet meadows, grassland, and riparian habitats that support a variety of bird species, including nesting Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wilson’s Snipe, American Avocets, and dabbling ducks such as Gadwall, Mallard and teal.
“The Winje Ranch is a gem of a property connecting Upper Alkali Lake with the Warner Mountains and a whole range of habitats, including rich wetlands,” said Graham Chisholm, Audubon California’s executive director. “Russell and Jan Winje have an inspiring love of the land and the wildlife it supports, and we’re pleased that this passion prompted them to work with us to protect it well into the future.”
This 62-acre conservation easement is the second in the Surprise Valley that Audubon California has completed in partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The first easement (192 acres) on the nearby Sheppard-Nardella Ranch was completed a year ago. The easements are being placed on high quality wetland habitats important to nesting birds.
Despite its remoteness, Surprise Valley is beginning to see the type of rural subdivision that is much more common in other parts of the state, and this could pose a significant threat to these important habitat areas in the coming decades. Audubon California is interested in working with NRCS and Surprise Valley’s ranching families to find ways to help ensure that the valley’s wetlands and native pasture lands are conserved into the future. The Valley’s ranches provide important homes for numerous bird species, and Audubon California would like to support management that maintains ranching and birds.
The NRCS Wetland Reserve Program conservation easement will protect the Winje Ranch’s wetlands, and the owners have agreed to work with NRCS and Audubon to restore native willows and other vegetation to enhance the property’s values for birds and other wildlife.
“We pursued the easement on our farm for various reasons – the future of the wetland, public access for visitors to Surprise Valley, and the certain knowledge that this particular little piece of bird, plant and animal heaven will never be allowed to be a housing subdivision, or a strip mall,” said Jan Winje. “With the enthusiastic assistance of Audubon California, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies, we have achieved that dream.”
Surprise Valley is recognized as a globally significant Important Bird Area. It is home to a high diversity of bird species, including a large number of raptors, including Prairie Falcon, Swainson’s Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, and Bald Eagle. In addition, the valley’s agricultural lands provide habitat for breeding Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Wilson’s Phalarope, Black Tern and, of course, Sandhill Crane.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. Audubon California is a field program of Audubon, which has more than 50,000 members in California and an affiliated 48 local chapters dedicated to protecting birds, wildlife and the habitats that support them.

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