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Placer Land Trust and the Oest family are pleased to announce the permanent protection of a portion of the historic Oest Ranch in Placer County.

As part of its new Small Farm Program, Placer Land Trust recorded an agricultural conservation easement on the 160-acre “Oest Ranch – Cold Springs Preserve” located near the North Fork American River in Clipper Gap.  This easement guarantees the permanent protection of the property for sustainable agricultural use, as well as the protection of its natural, scenic and historic attributes.

In 2009, Placer Land Trust worked with the Oest family to protect 350 acres of the Oest Ranch near Lake Clementine.  The Cold Springs Preserve is less than a mile from the Lake Clementine Preserve, upstream on Clipper Creek.  The Trust and the Oests now have protected 510 acres of the Oest Ranch for continued agricultural productivity, forever.

“Protecting our agricultural heritage is extremely important, not only to Placer Land Trust, but to all of us who enjoy the benefits of local agriculture,” said Placer Land Trust Executive Director Jeff Darlington.  “With approximately 109 acres of farmland being developed or taken out of agriculture every single day in California, it’s critical that our community protects the local farms and ranches – and local food security – we need for future generations.”

The Oests are a pioneering Placer family that has been farming and ranching in the Auburn area since the Gold Rush, with no plans to stop anytime soon.   Last year at the California State Fair the Oests were recognized by the California Agricultural Heritage Club for over 150 years of agricultural operations in Placer County.

“My family has had livestock grazing on our ranch for several generations now,” said landowner Daryl Oest.  “Times being tough, we were looking for options to help us preserve the land, and the people, because we want to see the land stay in our family.  We’re pleased to continue our work with Placer Land Trust to make sure our land is protected for agricultural use for generations to come.”

The preserve is named after the fresh, clear, and very cold springs on the property.  Clipper Creek flows through the middle of the property, and is a tributary to the American River, which in turn provides a lot of the domestic water for Placer County.   Placer Land Trust has an interest in keeping local water clean and free from runoff, erosion, and sedimentation, and the Trust does that by working with willing landowners to prevent development and other harmful land uses from polluting local waterways.

Primary project funding was provided by the Emigrant Trails Greenway Trust.  A portion of the funding came from Placer Land Trust’s wetlands mitigation account, funded by Placer County Water Agency.  Ongoing stewardship funding support came from the California Wildlife Foundation, as well as a generous donation to Trust from the Oests themselves.  Placer Land Trust’s Small Farm Program paid for the assessment and administrative fees necessary to make the project happen.

Darlington expressed thanks to the project funders, and for the Oest family for making a commitment to the future.  By working with landowners like the Oests through its Small Farm Program, Placer Land Trust continues to permanently protect the family farms and ranches that make Placer County such a wonderful and healthy place to live.

“This project protects a real personal and physical connection to the land,” added Darlington.  “The Oests have been excellent caretakers of this land for generations, and this easement will help them continue that legacy for generations to come.”

In addition to its agricultural values, the preserve contains Maidu milling sites, prime oak woodland and riparian habitat for a number of important wildlife species, and sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada crest and the American River Canyon. The easement restricts development to one homesite (currently occupied by a caretaker) and prohibits harmful land uses now and in the future.  The land will remain open space suitable for sustainable agricultural use.  Cold Springs Preserve is a part of Oest Ranch’s beef production, and also provides a home for bees producing PlacerGROWN honey.

The property continues to be privately owned and managed by the Oest family.  Although the property is not open to the public, Placer Land Trust does plan to lead docent-led tours on the preserve in the future.  The Trust hopes to work with the Oest family to protect the remaining 440 acres of Oest Ranch over the next several years, including lands along Highway 49 north of Auburn that could eventually connect to other protected lands such as the 1,773-acre Harvego Bear River Preserve.

Placer Land Trust is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit organization incorporated in 1991 and dedicated to working with willing landowners and conservation partners to permanently preserve natural and agricultural lands in Placer County. To date the Trust has preserved over 7,451 acres across Placer County for current and future generations.