'A natural treasure'

  • Scott Feierabend, Executive Director of Audubon Canyon Ranch, and Sherry Adams, Biologist and Preserve Manager Modini Ingalls Ecological Preserve & Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary, looking over the 1,750 acre Mondini Ingalls Ecological Preserve with Ingalls Bluff in as a backdrop on Feb 14, 2013.

Remote Pine Flat Road northeast of Healdsburg once carried visitors to a 19th century boom-and-bust mining town, traces of which have all but disappeared.

In more recent decades, it's been the site of deer poaching, target shooting and even the occasional dumping of a human body from a crime committed elsewhere.

But things are different these days.

On a recent tour of a green, hilly preserve about four miles up the road from Alexander Valley, biologist Sherry Adams spoke of the transformation taking place.

"Our strategy is changing how it feels to come up Pine Flat Road," she said. "It was a Wild West mentality."

As more land in the area has come under some form of conservation protection, the deer poaching around Pine Flat has pretty much stopped, she said.

The area now is defined by 12,000 acres of contiguously protected properties that are wildlife and plant havens.

But the most isolated and private parcel is the 1,750-acre Modini-Ingalls Ecological Preserve, just acquired by Audubon Canyon Ranch, for which Adams works.

"It's a natural treasure," Adams said of the land, home to deer, black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, fox, otters, turtles and nesting golden eagles.

The property belonged to the late Jim and Shirley Modini, the couple who bequeathed the former sheep and cattle ranch to Audubon Canyon Ranch.

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