April 29, 2019. MARTINEZ, CA — John Muir Land Trust ( JMLT, jmlt.org) announces that it has received a major grant of $2 million from the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB, wcb.ca.gov) toward the acquisition of Almond Ranch, a stunning 281-acre property south of downtown Martinez that has been a top priority of conservationists for decades. The grant was unanimously approved at the Wildlife Conservation Board Meeting on August 28, 2019. JMLT must raise $4 million by the end of 2019 to complete the project. The new funding from WCB puts JMLT just $250,000 short of that goal with four months to go.
Saving Almond Ranch from development—the alternative outcome—has many benefits. It would preserve a significant habitat corridor for wildlife, including several federally-listed species; protect three tributaries to the Alhambra Creek watershed; expand the Bay Area Ridge Trail Corridor and connect other major trails for the very first time; link large conserved landscapes; and open the property’s beautiful rolling hills along the Franklin Ridge to hikers, dog walkers, cyclists, bird watchers, equestrians, and nature lovers of all ages.
“The mission of the California Wildlife Conservation Board is to protect California’s spectacular natural resources for wildlife and for the public’s use and enjoyment. We work in partnership with conservation organizations and agencies to allocate funds for high priority acquisition projects,” said John Donnelly, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “Almond Ranch exemplifies the very special places we choose to protect, and John Muir Land Trust is precisely the sort of trusted partner we select. Permanently protecting Almond Ranch will be a huge win for everyone in California.”
The Campaign To Save Almond Ranch was launched with a first commitment of $1 million from the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD, ebparks.org) using funds made available by voters’ approval of Measure WW in 2008 for high priority community park projects. Additional funds are being raised from conservation-minded members of the general public.
“I cannot overstate how much the extraordinary grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board affirms the vital importance of protecting Almond Ranch, a fact established by the initial grant from the East Bay Regional Park District,” said Linus Eukel, Executive Director of John Muir Land Trust. “Almond Ranch is a treasure. Saving it protects critical habitat and clean water, offers close-to-home outdoor recreation, and makes vital trail connections that have been on everyone’s wish list for decades.”
Almond Ranch offers sweeping panoramic views of the Carquinez Strait and Bay Delta region to the north, Mount Diablo and the distant Sierra Nevada to the east, the rolling hills of Briones Regional Park to the south, and San Francisco Bay to the west. Saving the ranch would add one of the most important missing segments to the visionary 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail, and it would connect for the first time three large landscapes in Contra Costa County that comprise fully 18,000 acres of protected open space. Varied terrain includes hilly grasslands, forested valleys of oak-bay woodlands, scrub plant communities and riparian areas. The property provides rich habitat for a variety of native, rare and special-status species. The land is designated critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake, a federally threatened species. Stock ponds on the ranch support another threatened species: the California red-legged frog.
“This grant from WCB affirms that Almond Ranch should be on the list of anyone who is considering a donation to protect our state’s precious natural lands,” added Eukel. Those wishing to donate to The Campaign To Save Almond Ranch may do so at jmlt.org.