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Audubon Canyon Ranch expands Sonoma County land holdings

Audubon Canyon Ranch, a conservation group celebrating its 50th year, got a significant birthday present this week, one that nearly doubles the size of its holdings in Sonoma County.

The organization has added 1,620 acres next to land it helps manage in the Mayacamas Mountains northeast of Healdsburg, a rugged, remote area that is home to unique plants and animals.

"This is exciting. It will stretch our organizations' footprint considerably," said Executive Director Scott Feierabend.

Audubon Canyon Ranch

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"It's really wild and pristine land up here," he said during a recent tour of the property off Pine Flat Road.

The chaparral, oaks and mixed evergreen forest stretch from the 1,000- to 3,000-foot elevation overlooking Alexander and Knights valleys.

The property was part of the Mayacamas Mountain Audubon Sanctuary and, takes in the late-1800s mining boom town of Pine Flat, which once had a population of around 2,000 but is gone with hardly a trace as the result of periodic fires that sweep the area.

But nature quickly rejuvenates the land, which provides habitat for rare animals, including black bear, mountain lion, golden eagles and other sensitive species from the American Badger to the Northwestern Pond Turtle.

Ownership and an endowment to manage the 1,620 acres transferred Friday from the National Audubon Society, which was given most of the land in 1994, to the Audubon Canyon Ranch, a separate though similarly named organization.

It anticipates being more hands-on with scientific research, management and protection.

"We will play a much more active role. There's a whole set of skills and abilities we want to bring to the preserve," Feierabend said.


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