The Natomas Basin Conservancy announced today it acquired the largest piece of mitigation land since its inception. The Conservancy acquired the portion of the Sills Ranch that lies in Sacramento County. The site totals approximately 575 acres in one contiguous parcel and lies adjacent to U.S. Highway 99 just south of the Sacramento and Sutter county lines.
“We’re excited we’ve managed to acquire this parcel,” noted Conservancy Board President Anne Rudin of the 575-acre Sills Ranch. “It resolves a number of issues for the Conservancy and others. It’s a “˜win’ for everyone.”
The acquisition raises the total of Conservancy-owned mitigation land to approximately 2,665 acres. A total of approximately 1,373 acres have been secured by the Conservancy in the Sacramento County portion of the Natomas Basin with the balance in the Sutter County portion of the Basin.
The Sills ranch tract lies in an area known as Settlement Zone #2, an area designated in the litigation settlement of two years ago in National Wildlife Federation v. Babbitt. That settlement required the City of Sacramento to provide mitigation land for its Natomas development in various zones within the Sacramento County portion of the Natomas Basin. The Conservancy, acting as the City’s “plan operator,” set about the task of acquiring mitigation in the appropriate zones so that the City could comply with the terms of the settlement agreement. Earlier this year, the Conservancy acquired the 317-acre Ayala tract on Elverta Road, also in settlement zone #2.
“Not only did we assist the City with compliance in the settlement by this acquisition, we also satisfied the requirements of the habitat plan which specifies the minimum number of acres in one location. At 575 acres, this tract of land more than satisfies the 400-acre minimum required in the plan,” noted John R. Roberts, Executive Director of the Conservancy.
Roberts acknowledged the efforts of Alleghany Properties, Inc. and the City of Sacramento in the deal. “Alleghany Properties initiated this transaction, coordinating with the City, the Conservancy and the Sills family,” he noted. “Without the efforts of Dave Buggatto at Alleghany and the hard work of the City’s Natomas, Accounting and City Attorney’s staff, this special opportunity would never have been realized.”
Alleghany Properties, a major developer in the Natomas Basin, acquired part of the Sills Ranch and dedicated it to the Conservancy in lieu of certain portions of the habitat fee, which is required of developers in the City’s portion of the Natomas Basin. The balance of the property was assigned by Alleghany to the Conservancy for direct acquisition.
Conservancy President Rudin pointed to the fact that the acquisition gets the Conservancy well out in front of required mitigation. “This acquisition positions the Conservancy so that we won’t need to be acquiring land for a good while,” she noted. “Now we can focus a greater share of our efforts on preparing the land for the direct benefit of the 26 species covered in the habitat conservation plan.”
The Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan is a complex document which specifies certain conditions for mitigation land acquisition and management. The acquisition must also be approved by the Plan’s Technical Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives of the City, California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.