Calaveras ranchland to remain preserved

By Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat June 28, 2013 07:51 am

One of the largest remaining working ranches in Calaveras County will remain so for generations to come after completion of a conservation easement deal earlier this month.

The Lane family, which originally homesteaded the ranch in 1919, has received about $3 million in state funds granted to the San Francisco-based nonprofit Pacific Forest Trust. 

In return, they agreed that the 2,170-acre Campstool Ranch in Rail Road Flat will remain undivided as cattle ranching and forest land in perpetuity. 

Tim Lane, a Danville attorney, said the $3 million payment is about $500,000 short of the assessed value of the easement. The remainder is credited as a gift from the family to the trust, he said. 

Lane said it took more than six years to complete the deal after he and his two grown children agreed “it was the right thing to do.”

“Any time you intentionally reduce the value of something you own, you better be sure you’re doing the right thing,” Lane said. “This protects what’s been in the family for almost 100 years … and keeps it the way it is forever.”

Lane said his grandparents, Thomas and Anna Lane, ran cattle from their home in Clements up to Rail Road Flat. Thomas Lane learned of the opportunity to homestead the original 160 acres as a teamster hauling provisions to newly rejuvenated mining operations at the time, Lane said.

Lane said his parents added most of the additional land to the ranch in the 1940s and 1950s.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, whose district included Calaveras County from 2010 to 2012, wrote the Wildlife Conservation Board, which oversaw the awarding of $2.7 million of the funding, in support of the easement.

“Many ranchers and farmers in our state face increasing costs to run their operations and have limited resources,” Olsen wrote. “The proposed conservation easement will help protect productive forestland and ranchland that will enable the Lane family to continue to operate their ranch while protecting important resource lands in Calaveras County.”

The property, about three-quarters forested and the rest meadow and pasture land, sits on a 3-mile stretch of the north fork of the Calaveras River. Its neighbors are a 645-acre tract of Bureau of Land Management to the west and a subdivision of 25-acre ranchettes on former ranchland to the south, according to Pacific Forest Trust spokeswoman Kim Kowalski.

“Having seen the rapid development of the county and breakup of neighboring properties, the Lanes decided that it was time to permanently protect their ranch and its legacy of excellent stewardship,” Kowalski said.

The ranch features Ponderosa pine, sugar pine and vast oak woodlands and trust officials said it includes habitat being used by California spotted owls, a local deer herd and the rainbow trout that populate the river.