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Sunday, October 7, 2007

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Nature Conservancy transfers “Pinnacles Gateway” to National Park Service


Ranch popular with condors and campers now officially part of National Monument

http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/california/press/pinnacles042506.html

Pinnacles, Calif.—April 18, 2006—The Nature Conservancy announced today the transfer of 1,967-acres of prime California condor habitat to the National Park Service for incorporation into Pinnacles National Monument. The Pinnacles Ranch provides the only access point on the Monument’s eastern side and the only campground servicing the now 26,425-acre park. The property supports a wide array of wildlife such as deer, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes and an estimated 148 species of birds, including 13 California condors.

Located just 40 minutes south of Hollister, a fast-growing Silicon Valley “bedroom” community, the ranch was vulnerable to ranchette-style development. The Nature Conservancy purchased the land for $5.3 million in February 2005 to safeguard it while the National Park Service sought funding through Congress. The agency secured the money through the Land Water Conservation Fund in fall 2005 and took possession of the ranch in March 2006.

“The support of Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representative Farr was essential to achieving this win-win outcome,” said Peggy McNutt, regional director for The Nature Conservancy. “Representative Farr took up the cause of Pinnacles Ranch many years ago. His commitment constituted the turning point in a years-long effort to protect this important habitat for the California condor. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Feinstein was uniquely positioned to secure funding for Pinnacles and we are thrilled that she did so.”

While Pinnacles National Monument is comprised mostly of the distinctive volcanic rock formations for which it is named, the ranch brings diverse natural communities within the boundary, including native grasslands and valley oak woodlands, two increasingly rare habitat types in California.

The National Park Service and Ventana Wilderness Society, partners in a major condor reintroduction effort, have released condors from the Monument since December 2003. The release pen is located directly adjacent to the Pinnacles Ranch and biologists quickly discovered that the condors favor the property’s open fields and oak-dotted hills for forage and roosting.

“The Nature Conservancy applauds the landowners for choosing to make the ranch available for addition to Pinnacles National Monument,” said Christina Fischer, project director for The Nature Conservancy. “We are delighted to have played a part in ensuring that this land will remain natural and protected for the benefit of condors and people alike.”

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