The Big Sur Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy Collaborate on Key Conservation Easement
MONTEREY, CA — January 8, 2008 — The Big Sur Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have completed the purchase of a conservation easement on the Violini Ranch, a 4,000 acre property in the Carmel River watershed that supports some of Monterey County’s most threatened wildlife habitats, including oak woodlands, seasonal wetlands and native grasslands.
Owned by the J.J. and H.Violini Company, the ranch is located west of the city of Gonzales, off of River Road. It straddles the Sierra de Salinas ridgeline between Carmel and Salinas valleys and is visible from the Highway 101 corridor.
The conservation easement covers 3,200 acres of the property and ensures that the land will remain in a natural state. It encompasses exceptional blue and valley oak forests and savannas and wetlands that harbor rare amphibians such as the California tiger salamander and the California red-legged frog – two federally threatened species. The property’s rolling hills, narrow canyons and extensive wildflower meadows make it a stunning landscape as well as an important wildlife corridor for the movement of wide-ranging species such as badgers, bobcats and foxes. The ranch lies at the heart of a region rich in Mediterranean type habitat, which is found in only five places in the world.
"My brother and I love this land and have spent decades exploring every part of it, enjoying the views of the Salinas Valley, Monterey Bay and seeing bucks and other wildlife,” said Henry Violini. “We want to make sure that this land stayed just the way it is, forever. That's why working with The Big Sur Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to protect our land makes good sense. The easement helps us meet our goals for the property and provides an economic benefit for us."
The conservation easement, valued at $1.865 million, was purchased for $1,000,000 with private monies raised by The Big Sur Land Trust. The difference between the two values represents a donation from the property owners.
The property owners chose to take advantage of a 2006 federal law that expanded federal tax incentives to allow farmers and ranchers donating conservation easements in 2006 and 2007 to deduct a larger percent of their income over a longer period of time. This allows the property owner to offset capital gains and future income taxes. Importantly, Congress is right now considering making this law permanent. This would provide important incentives for voluntary land conservation into the future.
“Henry and Johnny Violini have provided our community with an incredible gift – the preservation of a grand and expansive landscape that is a real signature of Monterey County,” said Bill Leahy, executive director of The Big Sur Land Trust. “The Violini brothers have cared for their property with a gentle hand and respect for both the land and its wildlife. We are grateful for their willingness to work with us to secure this important conservation easement, the largest in our 29 year history.”
“We are honored to help Henry and Johnny Violini protect their legacy of excellent stewardship of this land,” said Chris Fischer, project director for The Nature Conservancy. “The ranch is a treasure trove of biodiversity in its own right, and it provides wonderful connectivity to other areas of high-quality habitat in the region. Everyone benefits when landowners choose to protect wildlife and habitat on their private lands.”
The conservation easement allows the property owners to maintain ownership of the entire property, while at the same time permanently preventing development from occurring on the portion included in the easement. The easement supports continued cattle grazing and low-impact recreation; all activities must be conducted in ways that do not threaten the ranch’s natural resources. The 800 acres of the ranch not included in the easement are well down-slope of the most sensitive habitat so any eventual conversion of the excluded tract is not expected to have a negative effect on the protected acres.
Under the terms of the agreement, The Big Sur Land Trust will purchase, hold and monitor the easement. The Nature Conservancy, which provided assistance in developing the easement and science-based monitoring guidelines, has dedicated a $100,000 endowment for future monitoring and management expenses.
More on The Nature Conservancy's California's Monterey Project.