By Paul Moreno
PG&E has donated a large tract of land in the McArthur Swamp under an agreement with conservation groups designed to ensure the parcel will be preserved in perpetuity.
For decades, PG&E has maintained the land in eastern Shasta County to provide both a seasonal wetland habitat and land for cattle grazing in dry seasons.
The parcel of land PG&E donated also supports the local farming economy and provides for recreational uses.
Left largely in its natural state, the 4,491-acre parcel is part of an important feeding and resting spot for ducks and geese along the Pacific Flyway. The land also supports the local farming economy and provides for waterfowl hunting and other recreational uses including boating in adjacent rivers.
On Oct.18, ownership of the land transferred from PG&E to the Fall River Resource Conservation District. The mission of the California special district is to support private and public landowners in the use and management of natural resources that will ensure the sustained highest economic, social, and environmental benefits of these resources. The transfer was immediately followed by conveyance of a conservation easement ensuring permanent protection of the land to Ducks Unlimited.
“We look forward to working with our partners and the community to continue the good stewardship of the McArthur Swamp exemplified by PG&E and the McArthur Resource Management Association,“ said Mike Millington, a board member of the conservation district.
The land, fed largely by alluvial springs to form the Tule River and Fall River, is located within the ancestral territory of the Ajumawi Band of the Pit River Tribe.
“We are pleased that the McArthur Swamp will be preserved in perpetuity while continuing to provide important environmental and local economic benefits. The cumulative work of the involved partners will ensure this land will be protected and enjoyed for generations to come,” said Mike Schonherr, a director at PG&E who oversees the company’s implementation of the land conservation commitment.
The 4,491-acre parcel is part of an important feeding and resting spot for ducks and geese along the Pacific Flyway.
The Fall River Valley region provides a major wetland linkage for migratory birds between the Klamath Basin and Oregon Closed Basin to the north and wintering grounds in the Central Valley to the south.
“We are very excited that this important habitat conservation project is finally coming to fruition,” said John Ranlett, Duck’s Unlimited’s regional biologist who has been involved in the project for over five years.
The donation is part of PG&E’s land conservation commitment, in fulfillment of an agreement in PG&E’s 2003 bankruptcy settlement that the company will permanently protect all 140,000 acres of its hydro watershed lands. These properties have been kept mostly in their natural state under PG&E’s ownership.
To complete the donation, PG&E worked with the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, the organization established in the settlement to oversee completion of the land conservation commitment.
“We are pleased to support the Fall River RCD and DU in the protection of the many beneficial public values of the McArthur Swamp property,” said Art Baggett, Stewardship Council board president.
PG&E will retain ownership of an additional 3,168 acres at McArthur Swamp for hydropower generation, which will also be protected through a conservation easement held by Ducks Unlimited. This includes a nearly 500-acre parcel that PG&E restored to a seasonal wetland in 2012.
In fulfillment of the land conservation commitment, PG&E lands have been donated to entities including the U.S. Forest Service, local governments and the University of California, Berkeley. PG&E is retaining the watershed lands necessary for hydropower operations.