Protecting the Natural Wonders and Resources of the Cosumnes River Watershed

Cosumnes River watershed

The Conservancy’s land acquisition program continues to make progress towards several goals, despite the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Last April, Resources Legacy Fund’s Land-Sea Connection program awarded SVC, in partnership with the Cosumnes Coalition and the American River Conservancy, a grant to help fund a full-time Acquisition position to support an increased focus on land acquisition projects throughout the Cosumnes River watershed. This watershed is home to important natural resources and productive agricultural lands.

At the end of October 2020, SVC and Sacramento County Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) finalized the purchase of a 130-acre agricultural/grazing property located along the Cosumnes River where SVC holds a previously recorded (2018) Swainson’s hawk easement. This multi-benefit project, which has already protected habitat for migratory birds, will also be used to facilitate groundwater recharge and help improve surface water flows for salmon runs and upstream spawning. Projects like these are supported by multiple project partners and funding sources, including the California Department of Water Resources and the Regional Water Authority, which administers the grant, to support surface and groundwater management development and to hire a Multi-Benefit Project Watershed Coordinator, and by The Nature Conservancy for a Groundwater/Flow Planning grant.

Successful land acquisition and multi-benefit projects require working closely with a variety of organizations and agencies to coordinate efforts, secure funding, and to facilitate landowner outreach. The partners working on sustainable conservation projects in the Cosumnes River watershed have together protected approximately 62,000 acres of lands which are critical to preserving the river’s landscapes and ecosystems. SVC applauds the many organizations and agencies involved who have been fundamental to the progress made in protecting the natural wonders and resources of the Cosumnes River watershed.

The Cosumnes River is unique because it is the only remaining undammed Western Sierra river system flowing from the Sierra Nevada and covers approximately 940 square miles from the headwaters to its confluence with the Mokelumne River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, the impact of reduced groundwater in the Cosumnes River watershed has led to an increased importance for recharge projects in this area. Groundwater is a critical defense to extended droughts and climate change, improving natural flood control, sustaining levels of potable water accessible to wells, and helping surface flows of the river from interruptions during critical times for Chinook Salmon, other wildlife, and habitats. The goal of groundwater recharge projects is to increase the acreage of land that is managed to hold larger amounts of water for longer periods of time to allow the water to filter through the soil and enter into the groundwater holding system, such as an aquifer.

Landowners Partnerships

The Cosumnes River watershed contains some of the most important natural and agricultural resources in California. The Sacramento Valley Conservancy (SVC) is a local non-profit organization established to provide a way for landowners who have land with agricultural, environmental, scenic, cultural or groundwater recharge value to protect those precious resources. SVC is an accredited land trust, qualified to accept voluntary “conservation easements” and hold land in trust at the landowner’s request. Landowners like you have worked cooperatively with SVC to preserve over 10,000 acres across the Sacramento region in the last 30 years.

A local landowner worked with SVC in 2018 to record a Swainson’s hawk conservation easement over a 130-acre agricultural/grazing property along the Cosumnes River.  Then in the fall of 2020, when the family was ready to sell the land, they again worked with SVC. We were able to help secure funds and facilitate the sale of the property at fair market value, with a guarantee that the land will forever be preserved as open space. This multi-benefit project had already protected habitat for migratory birds, and will be used to facilitate a groundwater recharge project to support water supplies and improved flows for salmon runs, creating a healthier watershed that benefits the entire region.

Conservation easements are entirely voluntarily and can be tailored to protect a land’s rural character, agricultural values, and important wildlife habitat while also allowing landowners to retain ownership to their land. The California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has provides additional opportunities for landowners to financially benefit from conservation easements, especially along the Cosumnes River, where important groundwater recharge efforts can help to address groundwater overdraft.

All transactions with the Conservancy are voluntary and many have potential tax benefits. We always complete our transactions with landowners at a mutually acceptable value.

Learn more about tools for protecting your land.

If you would like to discuss ways you may financially benefit from the conservation of your lands while also protecting natural and agricultural resources, give us a call to find the best option for you.

916-792-1005 or email Acquisition@sacramentovalleyconservancy.org

 

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