A rugged wilderness tract in southern Mendocino County - home to bald eagles, black bears and mountain lions - has been donated to Sonoma State University by the family of a prominent San Francisco insurance executive.
Valued at $8 million, the 3,500-acre wildlands preserve off Highway 128 near Yorkville was a gift of the Fred B. Galbreath Trust, along with a $1 million endowment to pay for operations on the land.
At $9 million, it's the largest donation to SSU since 1997, when Telecom Valley entrepreneur Donald Green and his wife, Maureen, pledged
$10 million for a concert hall to
be named after them on the SSU
campus. Construction of the Green Music Center is scheduled to start later this year.
"This is a piece of heaven," said Saeid Rahimi, dean of SSU's School of Science and Technology, which will operate the state park-sized preserve as a laboratory for biologists, geologists, geographers and even astronomers.
Rahimi, a techie who specializes in electronics and photonics, said the unexpected gift has kindled the nature lover in him.
"We fell in love with the pristine environment," Rahimi said, describing the ecological diversity of the preserve's forests, meadows, hills, streams and waterfall.
The university's first step will be a thorough survey and mapping of the property, a former sheep ranch that holds only some sheds and a network of no-longer-used logging roads.