|by Brett Wilkison
February 26, 2013
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
A national conservation group has reached an agreement to buy nearly 20,000 acres of timberland in northwestern Sonoma County, a move that derails the long-disputed, forest-to-vineyards conversion project pushed by CalPERS, the giant state workers pension fund.
The $24.5 million purchase of the so-called Preservation Ranch, to be completed by the end of May, is led by The Conservation Fund, based in Virginia. It would contribute up to $6 million toward the purchase.
Funding partners include the California Coastal Conservancy, which could contribute up to $10 million, Sonoma County’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which could add up to $4 million to the deal, and the Sonoma Land Trust.
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$24.5 million deal to protect
20,000-acre Sonoma County forest.
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The so-called “Preservation” Ranch is a 19,300 acre development in the heart of the Gualala River watershed. Premier Pacific Vineyards plans to destroy and fragment coastal redwood forest to plant grapes on the ridgetops – and call that “preservation.”