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Placer Land Trust’s Bruin Ranch bid gets big boost from state fund

By: Gus Thomson,Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer Land Trust’s one-time opportunity to buy and protect the 2,300-acre Bruin Ranch on the Bear River has received a $350,000 boost from the state. Land Trust CEO Jeff Darlington confirmed Wednesday that the Auburn-based non-profit has secured the $350,000 grant from the state-legislated Caltrans Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program. The Caltrans program provides $10 million annually to mitigate environmental losses caused by transportation projects. Darlington said the $350,000 is the first large donation to a fund that must come up with $12.7 million by the end of this year to buy the land. The property would be added to 1,700 acres that lies adjacent to it and already preserved by the trust. “It’s our first big hit, which is nice, and we anticipate going out to the community in April to tell more people about the opportunity,” Darlington said. The trust is also working with several other area landowners and the Bureau of Land Management to connect several parcels to preserve land along the Yuba-Bear River watershed. The land trust has an option on the Bruin Ranch that runs out at the end of 2010. Darlington said that with the downturn in the economy, the cost of the land is lower than it has been for quite some time and probably as low as it will drop. But the land trust is also dealing with an economy that has less government money available for land preservation efforts and fewer private and corporate funding dollars being donated. “If we can get the land now, though, it would be the best bang for our buck,” Darlington said. The Bruin Ranch fundraising drive is the largest the 20-year-old land trust has taken on. Darlington said the public’s desire to preserve land remains strong in Placer County. “We’re interested in any property that has value as natural or agricultural land but we can’t pursue every piece of land out there – especially those priced for development,” Darlington said. A case in point would be recent statements by opponents of the Bohemia Retail project off Highway 49 near Luther Road that the land trust could buy the 18 acres, he said. “It happens a lot,” Darlington said. “People will let us know about land they live next to that is being sold for development and ask us to buy it.”