Pioneer Placer County Oest family, Placer Land Trust, preserve 350 acres near Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s pioneering Oest family is teaming with Placer Land Trust to preserve 350 acres of ranchland near Lake Clementine. Daryl Oest’s great-grandfather arrived in Placer County in the 1850s for the gold but found a life raising livestock. More than 150 years later, his descendents continue to run cattle on land that includes a 350-acre parcel the Oest family has worked with the Placer Land Trust to place an agricultural easement on. “It has always been my father and my grandfather’s hope to be able to hold onto the land,” Oest said Tuesday. “It’s been my goal and my kids’ too.” The property lies between Auburn and Clipper Gap, to the east. Taking in oak woodland, grasslands used for seasonal livestock grazing and a mile of the Clipper Creek corridor, the Oest ranchland perches on the canyon rim above Lake Clementine. With the agricultural preserve in place, the Oests continue to own the land and can sell it, with the agricultural preserve requirement handed down to new owners. “It’s basically going to be open space,” Oest said. “It preserves it so it can never be developed.” The Placer Land Trust raised $900,000 to make the easement purchase, with primary funding provided by the Emigrant Trails Greenway Trust. The land trust also found financial assistance from the Placer County Water Agency and California Wildlife Foundation. Oest said that about $200,000 of the easement purchase price was donated back to the land trust to assist with its work on the property. Stewardship funding for land upkeep will also be coming from existing trust programs, including ones for small farms, oak woodlands, wetland mitigation and American River watershed protection. Jeff Darlington, land trust executive director, said preserving the Oest ranchland is about more than just retaining the scenic beauty of the property. The agreement will also mean protection of a creek corridor that drains into the north fork of the American River. “We have a huge interest in keeping that water clean and free from runoff, erosion and sedimentation,” Darlington said. “And we’re particularly interested in this area because of Lake Clementine, which is such a great recreational resource.” The land trust is working with several private landowners in the area on the possibility of preserving more than 1,000 acres of land surrounding the lake. The Oests have retained a three-acre parcel as a home site. For Oest, the easement money will help fund his retirement while retaining the family’s working link to the land. The property is an important part of the Oest ranch’s beef production. It’s also the location for a bee yard operated for the past three decades by John Miller of Newcastle’s Miller Honey Farms. Although the property is not open to the public, the land trust plans to have annual docent-led tours starting next spring. “This project reminds us why we love Placer County,” Darlington said. “Not only does it protect critical natural resources, water quality and local agriculture, but it protects our personal connection to the land. The Oests have been excellent caretakers of this land for generations and our easement will help them continue that legacy for generations to come.”