Protecting Clear Lake’s Heart: The Keithly Ranch Acquisition and the Future of Wetland Conservation

Manning Creek on the recently purchased Keithly Wetland Preserve.

In 2007, the Lake County Land Trust developed its first “Land Conservation Priority Plan,” which outlined the most critical and endangered lands that the Land Trust felt it should focus on.

At the top of the list was crucial shoreline habitat on Clear Lake, from the Clear Lake State Park down to south Lakeport. In 2021 the Land Trust purchased the 200 acre Wright Ranch, now the Wright Wetland Preserve. In December of 2023, the Land Trust closed escrow on the purchase of the 86-acre Keithly ranch property in south Lakeport, adjacent to the Wright preserve. This means the Lake County Land Trust has now protected almost 300 acres of nearshore, upland wetlands, and riparian land in the south Lakeport area. Another 30-acre parcel at Holiday Cove in Big Valley is also part of the Big Valley Wetlands project.

Both the Keithly and Wright acquisitions have created a combined area that will protect 16 percent of Clear Lake wetlands.

The Keithly acquisition is of utmost importance because of the existence of Manning Creek, which runs through the property and empties into Clear Lake. The creek is a major spawning creek for the threatened Clear Lake Hitch. The Land Trust is working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on funding to reconnect the creek to its original delta.

Many generous supporters contributed funds for this acquisition. In addition to the required $50,000 match that the Wildlife Conservation Board required, expenses for a Land Agent, appraisals, Title Report, lawyer fees, a required environmental review, and closing costs were needed to complete this purchase. The Land Trust will develop a co-management plan with the nearby Big Valley band of Pomo Indians as this area is a significant part of their tribal homeland.

The Land Trust thanks everyone who has supported this project and worked so hard to see it completed.

Founded in 1993, the Lake County Land Trust is a non-profit, charitable 501 (c) (3) organization funded mostly by local contributions. The Land Trust was founded to protect and conserve the land and water resources of Lake County with important natural, scenic, cultural and historical value. The Land Trust owns and operates the Rodman Preserve that features a small nature center and is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for visitors and hikers. Other properties include Rabbit Hill Preserve in Middletown, the Melo Wetland Preserve in Big Valley, a chaparral preserve on Mt. Konocti, and Monitor Island near Clearlake Park. The Land Trust also co-manages the Boggs Lake Preserve with the Nature Conservancy. For more information go to www.lakecountylandtrust.org.

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