The long-awaited addition to Pinnacles National Monument is assured with the purchase in February of the 1,967-acre Pinnacles Ranch by The Nature Conservancy for $5.3 million. The Conservancy plans to transfer the property within three years to the Park Service for incorporation into the 24,000-acre park.
The Pinnacles Ranch consists of rolling grasslands, oak woodlands and California condor habitat and serves as the gateway to the monument. Approximately 75% of visitors to the park enter on the eastern side through the Pinnacles Ranch property.
The Conservancy received a loan for the acquisition from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. By purchasing the land, the Conservancy in effect "bought time" for the National Park Service, preventing possible development of the property while the agency continues to seek full funding from the Land Water Conservation Fund. With help from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Sam Farr, the Pinnacles National Monument recently received an appropriation of almost half the funds necessary to acquire the Ranch from the Conservancy.
The new acquisition is part of a crucial wildlife corridor in the Gabilan Mountains. It supports numerous animals, including golden eagles, peregrine falcons, deer, bobcats, foxes and most notably, newly-released California condors.
"It's a great day for Pinnacles," said Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon. "The ranch is a treasure-it adds rare habitats to those already preserved in the park, and opens up new opportunities for the public. And it is key to the continued success of the California condor reintroduction effort."
Since December 2003, 12 young condors have been released in the monument. Six more are scheduled for release in 2005. Condors can be seen wheeling high above Pinnacles Ranch, surfing thermal updrafts that rise from the open grasslands.
Along with extensive native grasslands and riparian habitat, the ranch contains approximately 700 acres of healthy valley oak woodlands. The Monument currently has only 40 acres of this increasingly rare habitat type.