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Lake County Land Trust

Our Story

Lake County Land Trust Our Story

Initial Founding and Early Years

Board Formation, First Projects, Acquisitions and Expansions

The Lake County Land Trust (LCLT) was formed and officially incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) charitable non-profit organization in 1993. A small group of friends, including Susanne Scholz, Roberta Lyons, John Graham, Glenn Dishman, Mary Tulanian-Benson, Michael Friel, Judy Cox, Kim Clymire and Sibyl Day saw the need for expanded conservation efforts in Lake County, and formed the Trust. Our first officers were Mary Tulanian-Benson, Secretary, with the job of filing incorporation papers; Roberta Lyons, President 1993-1999; and Glenn Dishman, who was Treasurer for LCLT’s first seven years. Initial jobs and projects included development of a brochure and statement of purpose, setting up guidelines for the types of property that the Trust would work to preserve, and getting educated about the various funding sources available for purchase of land for conservation and preservation purposes. LCLT's first project was completed in 1999 with the acquisition of Rodman Ranch and Preserve on the north shore of Clear Lake at the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff. This 442-acre property bordering Rodman Slough and Clear Lake was well known for its valuable wildlife habitat.  The Rodman Ranch and Preserve, home to one of the largest Great Blue Heron rookeries in Northern California and containing nesting sites for Osprey, Western Grebes, and many other birds and mammals, still remained unprotected.  A variety of development proposals for the property had been presented to the County Planning Department and when LCLT stepped in, the land was for sale and being touted as an excellent site for a housing development, golf course and marina. With the able skills of Lakeport attorney and long-time Kelseyville resident, Peter Windrem, the Trust negotiated an option to purchase the property.  Our very successful "Adopt-A-Nest" campaign brought in nearly $40,000 from mostly local individuals toward the $1.2 million purchase price of the land and enabled the Trust to pay for the option and provided a timeline of one year to accomplish the acquisition. The Lake County Record Bee’s continuous publicity for this campaign generated a great deal of interest. Adopt-A-Nesters were awarded a beautiful certificate with a picture of a nesting heron at the Rodman rookery. It took over a year to purchase the Rodman Ranch and Preserve. Funding sources came from the California Department of Fish and Game through the Wildlife Conservation Board, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Service, the County of Lake, and the State Department of Parks and Recreation. The Conservation Fund, a national conservation organization, also assisted the Trust by providing bridge financing until the project could be completed.

Acquisitions and Growth in the 2000s

Rodman Preserve, Rabbit Hill & Black Forest 

The 132- acre parcel owned by the LCLT includes oak grasslands, wetland habitat, and a small ranch house that has been renovated to serve as a Nature Center.  The other 310 acres are owned by the California Department of Fish and Game (108 acres of wetlands), the County of Lake (40 acres on the lake near the Rodman Slough Bridge), and Rodman Ranch Vineyard (private owners, long-time Lake County residents and farmers, who bought 162 acres of the property for environmentally sensitive vineyard development, leaving majestic valley oaks and other habitat in place). ​The Lake County Land Trust offers self guided walks of the Rodman Preserve on Saturdays throughout the year.  Our keystone property, it has been featured in both Sunset Magazine (April 2001) and in Birdscapes (Spring/Summer 2002). The full-color articles tell the story of the acquisition project and features beautiful color photographs of the property and herons that nested there formerly but have since moved to another location.  In September 2004, another Lake County Land Trust project was completed: acquisition of the Black Forest, a 255-acre forest on the slopes of Mt. Konocti.  Working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the State Wildlife Conservation Board to secure funding, the purchase price came with help from private lenders, a loan from Lake Community Bank, and 52 individuals dedicated to preserving the forest.  The BLM now holds title to the land, which will be dedicated to open space and wildlife habitat. Also helping with this project was the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation through its Preserving Wild California Program. LCLT also owns the 9.5-acre Rabbit Hill and Chaparral Preserve in the midst of Middletown. This land was once a nature sanctuary established by Mr. and Mrs. Hamann in honor of their deceased daughter. Deeded by the Hamanns to an out-of-county Audubon Society, the distance make it difficult for the Society to look after the property, who were pleased to turn it over to the LCLT.  With the help of our loyal volunteers, the area has been cleaned up extensively and a picnic table was added thanks to the Lake County Community Services Department.

For more information and photos of the Rodman Preserve, please click here.

Rodman Preserve Lake County Land Trust
Big Valley Wetland

Recent Acquisitions and Growth

Big Valley Wetlands Preservation Project

LCLT acquired the 34 acre Melo Wetland Preserve in 2016. The property is the first acquisition in the Big Valley Wetlands Preservation Project, a project to protect the largest block of remaining wetlands and riparian area along the shore of Clear Lake. The Melo Preserve contains oak woodlands, pasture, wetlands and riparian forest. Funding for the purchase was provided by donors and the California Wildlife Conservation Board. The Lake County Land Trust was able to purchase the 201 acre Wright Ranch in south Lakeport in 2020. The property is the largest Land Trust property and the second purchase in the Big Valley Wetlands Preservation Project, containing oak woodlands, pasture, wetlands and riparian forest. It includes the possibility of restoring 32 acres of shoreline wetlands, critical to the health of the Clear Lake ecosystem. Funding for the purchase was provided by donors and the California Wildlife Conservation Board. In December of 2023 LCLT was able to purchase the adjacent Keithly Ranch of 86 acres, creating what is now being called the Wright-Keithly Wetland Preserve. Purchase of the Keithly Ranch has created a combined preserve of more than 280 acres. It features nearshore, upland wetlands, and riparian areas. A feature of this property is the last stretch of Manning Creek before it flows into Clear Lake. Restoration is currently being pursued on the creek to facilitate the annual migration of the Clear Lake Hitch, a threatened fish endemic to Clear Lake. We are a charitable, non-profit, non-governmental organization that works cooperatively with land owners, private groups, and governmental agencies.

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