Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Buyers Market, ABF Land Acquisition


Last updated 1/15/2016 at 11:10am

Michael Sadler

Paige Rogowski

One would think that for a piece of land clearly marked by the major natural feature running through it called "Rattlesnake Valley," a Buyer Beware! situation would be applicable. Not so for the Lucky 5 Ranch. The 1,562-acre acquisition by the Anza Borrego Foundation (ABF - clear title on 1,130 acres plus a 432-acre easement) is located in the Laguna Mountains twenty-five miles southwest of Borrego Springs. The ABF did the buying knowing exactly what they were after, including the rattlers.

"The Lucky 5 Ranch is like the final piece of the conservation puzzle in that region," said ABF Executive Director Paige Rogowski, "because it

connects Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) to the east and north, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park to the west, and Cleveland National Forest to the south." At about 630,000 acres, the ABDSP is the largest state park in California and contains twelve designated Wilderness Areas. The

unincorporated San Diego County community of Borrego Springs sits almost dead center within its vast acreage.

Since its founding in 1967, the ABF has acquired more than 50,000 acres of land within ABDSP boundaries, and they also assist with park operations and fundraising for educational programs. The Lucky 5 Ranch acquisition came at the cost of $5.59 million dollars, the funds coming

from an anonymous $2 million dollar private donor plus funds from Proposition 12, Habitat Conservation Fund, the Land & Water Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Resources Legacy Fund, and the Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation.

Four decades long in the offing, the long-term purpose of this particular private land acquisition between surrounding state and federal lands was, as Rogowski explained, "a continuous open space for wildlife to travel and make their homes...and important as species adapt to climate change."

ABDSP Superintendent Kathy Dice noted the dual-purpose nature of our park system: Providing not only species habitat but also human recreational pursuits such as back-country camping, hiking, and

horseback riding. In a back-country property ranging in elevation between 4,700-5,200 feet, this reporter envisioned a "corridor" of sorts between

state and national parks for long-term habitat protection. But that's not exactly the case, given the topography, and Dice politely corrected me on

that analogy. "Our goal is to conserve open space and wildlife habitat in large enough zones to allow for the free movement of wildlife," Dice said, and then she put it all in a nutshell:

"Having natural habitat stretching from the mountain zone down to the desert creates the opportunity for wildlife such as mountain lion, bobcat, deer, fox, etc. to roam and follow their natural behavior patterns without interference from human development. Animals like mountain lions are known to have territories that cover as much as 50 square miles. Deer move up and down the gradient depending on season and temperature, as do many bird species. Bobcat, fox and other predators follow the food. Native plant species also need room to do their work. We just work on creating the space for all the native species to have the chance to do what comes naturally and thrive."

She forgot to mention the rattlesnakes, or perhaps they are implied in that "etc." part, but in either case, rattlers are surely as ignorant of the

invisible man-made boundaries of the land purchased by the ABF, as are the other animal species inhabiting the region.

There was much to celebrate in the long and complicated process of acquiring the land. "This was my first experience with an acquisition this

large and complex," says ABF's Paige Rogowski. "Thankfully I had a terrific team of volunteers, Park staff, and knowledgeable contractors to get the job done!" State Parks District Superintendent and current ABF Trustee David Van Cleve affirms, "State Parks staff have been looking to permanently protect this property since the 1960's, so this latest and final acquisition is a terrific testament to their vision and hard work."

With part of the mission of the state park service being, as stated by Park Superintendent Dice, "to preserve the best of California forever," it all

shows up like mission accomplished. Credit goes to the various trusts, non-profit organizations, and private citizens, plus local, state, and federal agency representatives, all in coordination with ABF. Together, they managed to fit into its proper place this final piece of a regional natural resource puzzle.

And if rattlesnakes could talk, they'd say congrats to all.

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