State funding approved to buy and conserve 1,280 acres in eastern Lake County
More than a decade ago, Middletown biologist Rob Gross chanced upon 1,280 rugged acres in a remote section of eastern Lake County while seeking a secluded spot to fish during an outing with his son at Indian Valley reservoir. During the hike downstream from the reservoir, he discovered the property was being frequented by trespassers using it as a private hunting ground, shooting range and dirt bike track. It ignited what would become a yearslong campaign by Gross to get the private land into the hands of an agency that could protect it.
Those efforts are now paying off with the impending sale of the Silver Spur Ranch property to Tuleyome, a Woodland-based nonprofit conservation organization. The state Wildlife Conservation Board last week approved a grant of $440,000 toward the $500,000 land purchase from the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, said Andrew Fulks, president of Tuleyome. Escrow on the property is expected to close within 60 days, he said.
“This is a true dream come true” for the many people involved in the effort to protect the land, Gross said. Scores of people, including government agency officials, academics and monks at the City of 10,000 Buddhas worked to make the sale happen, he said.
The Buddhists have owned the Silver Spur Ranch for more than 25 years, but it’s two hours from their Mendocino County center in Talmage. They were alarmed when Gross showed them how it was being trespassed by people who cared little for its rugged beauty, riddling old ranch buildings with bullets, poaching, littering and tearing up the land with motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles that left ruts up to 12 feet deep. Someone had even posted signs reading: “Silver Spur deer hunting club,” Gross said.
“It was the most disgusting show of American machismo,” Gross, 63, said of the property damage.
He visited the Buddhists at their Talmage campus to discuss the problem and began checking the property periodically, phoning game wardens about poaching and enlisting people to document the property’s plants and animals, with the goal of getting the land sold to a trust. The Buddhists added additional No Trespassing signs and gates, and eventually agreed to sell if the right buyer could be found, a buyer who would preserve the land and the animals that live there.
The sale to Tuleyome — in the works for three years — includes an agreement that bans hunting and fishing on the land, in keeping with Buddhist beliefs.
“We’re really happy” about the sale to Tuleyome, said Amy Chang-Chien, facilities coordinator at the City of 10,000 Buddhas.
The property is comprised largely of blue oak woodlands andchaparral. It’s home to a plethora of wildlife, including golden and bald eagles, trout, otters, beavers, Tule elk, mountain lions and bears. Fulks noted it’s also in the middle of the 330,780-acre, newly created Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.
“Strategically, it really fits in with the larger vision,” he said.
Fulks said he expects the property will open to the public in the fall. Hiking, horseback riding and bicycling will be allowed on existing roads and all-terrain vehicles are expected to have designated use areas, he said.
Lake County officials said it will be a welcome addition to Lake County’s many outdoor-oriented tourism draws.
“I think its going to have a positive benefit for the public,” said Lake County Supervisor Jim Steele.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or email@example.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter