Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Public can see foothill conservancy this month

Bee photographer Diana Baldrica took this shot of wildflowers on a table top mountain in the conservancy.

A reader asked a good question after reading my story on the Sierra Foothill Conservancy: “A milestone for wildflowers,cow pies and flat-top mountains.”

“How can I see this place?” the reader asked.

The conservancy has two opportunities this month — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 13 at the McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27 at the Ewell Fine Gold Creek Preserve. Directions are on the links.

Public access is always an important issue, because people want to see natural treasures. The open public days give people that opportunity.

Innovative Sierra Foothill Conservancy expands again

The innovative Sierra Foothill Conservancy has added another 280 acres to its growing swath of protected land — the old Tallman Ranch at the edge of Clovis where you’ll find deer, quail, ducks and the occasional wild hog.

The land is now called the Ted K. Martin Wildlife Preserve. Martin. 89, a lifelong resident of the Fresno-Clovis area, provided the $1.3 million to buy and maintain the property.

Earlier this year, Martin donated $2 million to the Fresno Regional Foundation to restore and preserve the San Joaquin River.

The new property becomes part of a 25,000-acre conservancy in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa counties. The organization is known for working with landowners to maintain natural foothill conditions.

Research has shown that grazing cattle help thin out the invasive grasses introduced by European settlers more than a century ago.

Well-managed grazing prevents sensitive vernal pools from being overrun by the invasive grasses. It has helped restore an elegant ecosystem on the distinctive flattop mountains in the foothills.

But this conservancy does much more than lease land for grazing. Two years ago, it launched its own beef herd called Sierra Lands Beef. A few hundred head help bring in more money for the conservancy.

The newest property in the conservancy was once a working cattle ranch with an interesting history, according to executive director Jeannette Tuitele-Lewis. She said the property, which is about 1,400 feet in elevation, was originally bought for $10 in the mid-1930s.

There are four ponds, fed from streams in the area, she said. There are two houses, one of which will be occupied by a caretaker.

“Access will be more restrictive than other parts of the conservancy,” she said. “This is an important wildlife area.”