INSIDE Chico State
0 August 24, 2000
Volume 31 Number 1
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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University Research Foundation Creates Big Chico Creek Ecological Preserve

Meadowlands on the Simmons Ranch property on Big Chico Creek newly acquired as a nature preserve. (photo Donald Holtgrieve)
Meadowlands on the Simmons Ranch property on Big Chico Creek newly acquired as a nature preserve. (photo Donald Holtgrieve)

A nature preserve has been created on Big Chico Creek to provide educational opportunities for students and a refuge for Sacramento River Chinook salmon, thanks to a partnership between the University Research Foundation and conservation organizations.

"This is a wonderful opportunity, not only for the university but for the entire community," said Scott McNall, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "It provides us with a living laboratory to study the environment and a place close at hand to offer public school students and others classes on the environment. We want to build an endowment to manage and protect the land and native species, and to conduct research and teaching programs."

The Simmons Ranch, a 2,724-acre property along 2.5 miles of Big Chico Creek, will be owned and managed by the University Research Foundation.

The David & Lucile Packard Foundation contributed $1.5 million toward the purchase, plus a grant of $64,000 to develop a management plan and endowment plan for the preserve. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also gave a grant of $500,000, and the California Wildlife Conservation Board contributed $1,677,000.

Phillip Wallin, director of The River Conservancy program, said that the preserve was established for four different reasons. "First, it protects critical habitat for rare and threatened species of wildlife, especially Chinook salmon and steelhead. Second, it gives the university the outdoor laboratory that it needs to understand the life histories of these threatened species, as well as conduct research and teaching programs. Third, it's critical winter habitat for the East Tehama herd of black-tailed deer, the largest migratory herd in California, as well as the mountain lions that prey on them. Finally, it will become a place where the people of Chico and the North Valley can learn about river ecosystems and the recovering runs of salmon and steelhead."

The grant for the Big Chico Creek purchase is part of Packard's five-year "Conserving California Landscapes Initiative." Under the initiative, which began last year, $175 million in grants and about $100 million in low-interest loans are to be awarded to preserve important natural areas in three sections of the state: the Central Coast, the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada. -- JW

 

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