One of Napa County’s largest conservation easements has reached completion, and is currently situated on the 4,461-acre Monticello Ranch nestled on the eastern shores of Lake Berryessa. The easement was granted in order to ensure the future of open space as well as long-time ranching traditions right beside the lake.
Monticello Ranch is owned by Robin and Michelle Baggett of Rutherford’s Alpha Omega winery and Pete Craig, who is part of the family and founded Rutherford’s Sacrashe Vineyard. The owners recently placed the property under a conservation easement.
The ranch is now permanently protected from development under an agreement otherwise known as an agricultural conservation easement. The transaction was made possible through the joint efforts of the Land Trust of Napa County and the California Department of Conservation (DOC), under the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program. While the easement prevents future developments on the land, it is permitted to stay within private ownership.
Preserving agricultural lands
The SALC Program, which helped fund the easement, is managed by DOC for the Strategic Growth Council, or SGC. Among the program’s primary goals is the protection of agricultural land in the outskirts from development, bolster efforts to support California’s food security, and encourage low-carbon transportation and infill development.
The program is included as part of the California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative which makes use of proceeds generated from the State’s Cap and Trade auctions in order to decrease the level of greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously increasing additional health, environmental, and economic benefits.
The easement within Monticello Ranch is designed to reduce potential emissions resulting from housing development. By protecting forested areas, it will be able to assist in carbon sequestration. In addition, it will also help protect Lake Berryessa’s watershed, which is a key source of water for Solano County.
Worth $2.7 million
The easement is currently worth $2.7 million according to Don Drysdale, the spokesman for the State Department of Conservation. The state of California spent around $2 million through its SALC program, while the owners donated additional funds to cover the remaining value.
While the land is situated in a relatively remote location, it could still be affected by ranchette development, according to Land Trust CEO Doug Parker. Its prime location features great views of Lake Berryessa, which makes it attractive to many people.
Protecting Monticello Ranch and the Lake Berryessa area
While agriculture in Napa County is known throughout the world for its vineyards, ranching is still prevalent east of the county all the way towards Yolo County. The 2016 county crop report shows that nearly 150 square miles (about 95,000 acres) are reserved and used as rangeland and pasture.
The Land Trust aims to protect over 14,000 acres through conservation easements within the area surrounding Lake Berryessa. With the addition of the Monticello Ranch, they have now succeeded in protecting over 6,000 acres, with more to come.