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Sonoma County Board of Supervisors set to OK $2.4 million Pryor Ranch conservation deal

When Ed and Elva Pryor bought a big swath of woodland in the hills southwest of their Healdsburg home in 1946, there were few structures or other signs of civilization on the surrounding landscape.

That has changed in past decades, but the Pryors' 1,509-acre retreat east of Armstrong Woods off Sweetwater Springs Road has remained much the same.

The family hoped it would stay that way and a deal with Sonoma County's open space district aims to ensure it.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors, which oversees the taxpayer-supported district, is set to approve the purchase of a conservation easement over the Pryor ranch.

The $2.4 million deal amounts to a sale of development rights and would shield the property against subdivision.

Family members have been working with the county for nine years and said the deal marks a final wish come true for their late relatives.

Ed Pryor, especially, "thought it was the most beautiful property around," said Kim Thompson, a grandson. "The intention was always to keep it open. So it's a good feeling to know that's how it's going to stay."

The spread was once part of Rancho Sotoyome, the 49,000-acre Mexican land grant that sprawled across much of northern Sonoma County.

Sizable tracts of second-growth Douglas fir, coast redwood and oak forests cover the Pryor ranch, as well as grasslands and ridges that can be seen from miles away. Limited timber and grazing operations would be allowed to continue under the deal, one of only a few for the county that focus on timberland protection.

Four creeks cross the property and feed into Porter Creek, a tributary to the Russian River. Several of the streams support steehead trout runs and likely serve as habitat for endangered coho salmon, Thompson and county officials said.

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