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For Immediate Use                                                                                               Contact: Alison Sheehey, (760) 378-2531
April 12, 2005                                                                                                                    

Sprague Ranch now Part of the Kern River Preserve


25 Years of Conservation Pays Off for Birds and Community

Bakersfield Californian - Robert Price opinion Sprague Ranch purchase

Kelso Creek-Piute Mtn

Alexander-Vig-Heflin Ranch

Parker Ranch

Alexander Ranch

Cyrus Canyon

Sprague Ranch

Allen Sanctuary

Kelso Creek Sanctuary

TNC transfers KRP to Audubon

Kernville, CA, – Twenty-five years after conservationists started acquiring and restoring land on the South Fork Kern River, the National Audubon Society announced the purchase of the Sprague Ranch. This acquisition doubles the size of Audubon’s Kern River Preserve, adding 1,640 acres of rare cottonwood willow forest to this Mecca for birds and birders.

“Audubon’s Kern River Preserve draws visitors from all over California, particularly in the spring during the height of spring migration,” says Debbie Kiggens, a local businesswoman, “The Preserve has been a good neighbor in our community.”

The Sprague Ranch purchase (see attached details) occurred through a unique partnership bringing federal, state, and private partners together to help secure important cottonwood willow (riparian) forest, one of California’s most threatened habitats with more than 90 percent lost in the past two hundred years.

The Sprague Ranch acquisition not only secures key habitat for the Willow Flycatcher, it also benefits more than a dozen other sensitive bird species, including the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The 15-mile-long riparian corridor that makes up the South Fork Kern River has been identified by Audubon as an Important Bird Areas because it holds a globally significant population of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers.

Audubon’s Kern River Preserve including the Allen Sanctuary and the Kelso Creek Preserve now encompass 3,327 acres, including five miles of frontage on the South Fork Kern River. “The addition of the Sprague Ranch is critical to conserving this valley’s natural heritage, and I can’t thank the Sprague Family enough for working with us over the past several years to complete this transaction,” said Reed Tollefson, Audubon’s Kern River Preserve director.

“By preserving open space and riparian forest, we allow the Kern Valley to retain some of its rural setting and natural beauty – an important asset to a community that relies upon tourism,” said Glenn Olson, Audubon California’s executive director.

Tens of thousands of visitors come to the Kern Valley for recreation, including an increasing number who come to enjoy the valley’s diversity of nesting and migratory birds. “Audubon’s work makes it possible for California’s families to enjoy this jewel of the southern Sierra,” said Al Wright, director, California Wildlife Conservation Board.

The Sprague Ranch purchase will also provide other public benefits by increasing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flexibility in operating Isabella Reservoir for water storage and hydropower production.

Funding for the acquisition was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with funds secured by Congressman Bill Thomas, California Wildlife Conservation Board through funds from Proposition 40 approved by California voters in 2001, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Conserving California’s Landscapes Initiative, and the National Audubon Society.

“Audubon is pleased to have worked with a broad range of partners on the Sprague Ranch purchase and to be part of the community in the Kern River Valley,” said Olson.

It’s important to note that funds from Proposition 40 bond, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2001, were vital to making this acquisition possible,” said Olson. “California residents should be applauded for their role in this important conservation effort.”

For over 100 years Audubon has been protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

Sprague acquisition looking west from the western edge of the south fork Kern.

Chaparral is now a component of the Kern River Preserve habitats.

Looking east toward the South Fork Kern from the hills along Fay Ranch Road.

The hills and grassland to the left of the forest comprise just a portion of the new property of the Kern River Preserve. The riparian (riverbank) forest on the right is part of the Kern River Preserve and is watered by the free flowing South Fork Kern River.

# # #

Sprague Ranch Acquisition
April 11, 2005

  • The 4,358 acres of the Sprague Ranch was acquired on March 31, 2005 for $4,445,000.

  • 1,640 acres will be incorporated into the National Audubon Society’s Kern River Preserve and;

  • 2,718 acres was purchased by California Wildlife Conservation Board will be managed by the California Department of Fish and Game.

  • The Army Corps of Engineers has established a $3.2 million endowment to support restoration and good stewardship by Audubon and the California Department of Fish and Game.

  • This complex transaction involved funding from federal and state agencies and private partners. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) provided mitigation funds to help acquire habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, a federally endangered bird species that nests in the river forests of the Kern River Preserve and along the South Fork Kern River. The purchase will benefit numerous other sensitive bird species.

  • Audubon, together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Game, California Wildlife Conservation Board, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, has worked to acquire and protect suitable habitat for the Southwest Willow Flycatcher since 1995, when Willow Flycatcher nests were flooded during a high water year by Isabella Reservoir.

  • The purchase will allow the Isabella Reservoir to resume normal operations, providing maximum water and hydropower to benefit Californians while ensuring that the Willow Flycatcher and many other species of wildlife have the habitat they need to survive.

  • Acquisition Funding Sources:
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $1,707,045;
    California Wildlife Conservation Board $1,222,955;
    National Audubon Society $800,000 from a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Conserving California’s Landscape Initiative.

  • Endowment Funding Source:
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $3,200,000.

Flora of Audubon's Allen Sanctuary


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