History of the Pine Hill Preserve

Most of the eight rare plant species were unknown to botanists until fairly recently. Five of the eight species were first described between 1965 and 1974.

In December of 1974, the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) published the first edition of the Inventory of Rare and Endangered Vascular Plants of California which included seven of the eight subject rare plants.

On January 9, 1975 the Smithsonian Institution presented to congress a report listing four of the eight species as either endangered or threatened.

Between 1979 and 1982, five of the eight species were listed as rare or endangered by the State pursuant to Section 1903 (Native Plant Protection Act of 1977) of the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Code. These five species were subsequently added to a list of rare, endangered or threatened plant species of California under Section 2072.7 (California Endangered Species Act of 1984).

In 1989, El Dorado County staff were informed of the need to pursue protection of these species, and were provided with the most comprehensive information available at the time by a botanist with DFG's Endangered Plant Program. At the same time, the development community became aware of DFG's strong concern regarding this issue. There was general agreement among DFG, County staff and the development community that a regional solution should be sought for development projects which could accommodate off-site mitigation.

In the spring of 1990, EIP Associates was retained by a private development company to conduct a comprehensive field survey and study. The study was put on hold in August of 1990, due to delays in this company's proposed development project in Cameron Park. The County staff proposed to restart the study under County sponsorship

The funding was approved by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors during the spring of 1991 and the report, Preserve Sites and Preservation Strategies for Rare Plant Species in Western El Dorado County was completed in November, 1991.

In 1992, the Board of Supervisors requested the formation of the El Dorado Rare Plant Technical Advisory Committee to recommend a means by which the rare plant issue could be resolved

During the fall and winter of 1992, the Committee set out to design a rare plant preserve system. The Committee used the survey of potential preserve sites undertaken by EIP Associates in 1991.

Twenty-two areas were initially identified as potential preserve sites. Ten of these sites were rejected when the sites were found to be sufficiently fragmented by development as to make the site unsuitable as a managed preserve.

The remaining twelve areas were fully evaluated and scored. In ranking the Salmon Falls area was ranked the most suitable preserve site (#l ), Cameron Park was ranked #2 and Pine Hill was #3. It should be noted at this point that the Cameron Park site was also found to be the only potential preserve site south of Green Valley Road and the only site in the southern half of the rare plant range.

Following lengthy deliberations, the Technical Advisory Committee recommended a rare plant preserve system of five preserve units with a total area of 3,450 acres. The Salmon Falls, Pine Hill and Cameron Park units were chosen as "core" reserve areas and two smaller reserve sites were selected as "satellite" preserve sites: Penny Lane Ridge and Martel Creek both largely owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Technical Advisory Committee recommended these five preserve sites as necessary for the recovery and ongoing protection of the rare plants. The 3,450 acres amounted to less that 10% of the total rare plant habitat. The committee agreed that setting aside these 3,450 acres in reserves was better for the plants and better for the building community in avoiding the need for rare plant surveys, environmental impact reports, and having to maintain many small onsite reserves.

In March of 1993, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisor discussed the Committee's recommendations. The Board agreed to adopt only four (4) of the preserves sites. In reviewing the Board's minutes it appears the Board did not adopt the Cameron Park Preserve because of cost and the belief that purchase funding for this land was not available. In addition to the decision to omit the Cameron Park site from the preserve system the Board failed to address the provision of County funding for the creation or management of the four (4) preserves sites they did adopt.

Most people close to the rare plant issue knew that the Board's action was an "unfunded mandate" and did not resolve the issue. During 1994 and 1995, different methods were employed by different groups to resolve the rare plant issue.

During 1990 through 1996 the DFG and the American River Conservancy submitted grant applications and negotiated with landowners within the four (4) rare plant preserve areas. This effort raised approx. $1,600,000.00 in state funding and led to the purchase of 306 acres of habitat all within the Salmon Falls Preserve Unit.

On October, 1996 five of the eight rare plant species were listed by the Federal government, 4 as Endangered and 1 as Threatened.

In a published consultation between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dated February 27, 1995 the two agencies determined:

"The amount of decline in El Dorado County plant species occurring in gabbro soils that is attributable to the Central Valley Project (CVP) has not been determined, but is significant. Portions of this area lie within the El Dorado Irrigation District. The activities that directly affected these species, including municipal and industrial land uses, are receiving CVP water. Additionally, some of the residential, commercial, and infrastructure growth that adversely affected these species may have been induced in part by CVP operations in the El Dorado Irrigation District. As availability of reliable water from other sources has declined, the effect of CVP on continuing development has become much more significant. "

-- Roger Patterson, Biological Opinion

In the same document under the section "Critical Needs" the following statement is made:

"...the following measures are needed:
  1. Plan a preserve system for the five Central Sierran gabbro plants. The preserve(s) will encompass habitat. Plan to purchase a southern preserve site of approximately 400 acres from a willing seller(s). This site(s) either will have been identified by the El Dorado County rare plant advisory committee or the EIP Associates Report (1991). Implementation of the preserve system will commence within 2 years of the signing of the first contract.

  2. Ensure that this land will be protected in perpetuity and managed and/or restored to aid in the recovery of the species. Endow preserves with sufficient funding to maintain and operate the preserve, including hiring a preserve manager, installation and maintenance of fencing, trash clean-up if necessary, and appropriate fire management."
In response to the Central Valley Improvement Act and notification that some funding was available for endangered species mitigation, the American River Conservancy submitted a grant, dated November 26, 1997 to the Bureau of Reclamation and US Fish and Wildlife Service requesting $1 million in rare plant habitat funding.

On January 2, 1997 the Conservancy was contacted by Smith and Gabbert, Inc. and was asked to pursue and negotiate the purchase of 315 acres of their 382 acres. Two independent appraisals were commissioned.

During May of 1997, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Economic & Planning Systems to prepare an economic and feasibility study for the El Dorado County ecological preserve program. The final study and addenda were approved by the Board during September, 1997. These reports served as the economic and technical basis in support of subsequent actions by the Board to adopt Ordinance No. 4500 and implementing fee resolution, during June, 1998. Ordinance No. 4500 and fee resolution created a method by which the County raises funds to acquire from willing sellers land to be included in the ecological preserves. These actions supplemented a prior action of the Board whereby the El Dorado County General Plan was amended to include the Cameron Park ecological preserve. (General Plan Amendment No. A 97-09, approved March 24, 1998, by Resolution No. 57-98.)

During 1997 and 1998 the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors and the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors each approved the appropriation of funds for the phased acquisition of 315 acres located in the Cameron Park Preserve. During Phase I of the acquisition each Board approved $843,000, another $500,000 each was approved for acquisition of the second phase.

In 1998, the Draft Recovery Plan that pertains to the Pine Hill Preserve was written by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entitled "Recovery Plan for Gabbro Soil Plants of the Central Sierra Nevada Foothills". An amendment to the Draft Recovery Plan was written in September 2000, and the final version of the Plan is expected sometime this year.

During 2001 the Board of Supervisors and the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors, by separate actions, approved a Cooperative Management Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish & Game, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, El Dorado Irrigation District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the American River Conservancy. In part, this agreement provides for the authorities, goals, responsibilities and the administrative process by which the participants to the agreement will work together to prepare a management plan for the ecological preserve program. By separate agreement, El Dorado County, El Dorado Irrigation District and Bureau of Land Management, have created funding to employ an interim preserve manager who is responsible for the development of the management plan.

During 1997 through January 2002, an additional 454 acres were acquired within the Cameron Park Preserve Unit. As of January 2002, slightly more than 2,900 acres of rare plant habitat has been protected within the Pine Hill Preserve.

In December of 2002, the Final Recovery Plan for Gabbro Soils Plants was released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The plan calls for a 5000 acre preserve. And from 2002 to 2003 the Preserve grew to 4100 acres. Of the 4100 acres, 3900 acres are covered under the recovery plan.

Until 2003, public outreach and guided tours were the purview of the American River Conservancy under contract with the California Department of Fish and Game. In 2003, the Pine Hill Preserve conducted its first volunteer training and, as a result, now has 8 active Volunteer Naturalists who represent the Preserve at public events and lead, or co-lead guided field trips. They also volunteer for the Preserves Habitat Restoration Team along with other volunteers from the community.

In the fall of 2003, Preserve Manager Al Franklin, Bureau of Land Management, announced that he would be stepping down as Preserve Manager as soon as a suitable replacement can be found and funding secured for the position. The Pine Hill Preserve Management Team, which meets bi-monthly, is actively working to secure both funding and a new manager. Mr. Franklin will continue to be involved with the Preserve due to his position as botanist for the Bureau of Land Management's Folsom Field Office.