Six Rivers to the Sea (6R2C) is a regional conservation initiative and collaborative landowner-public agency-land trust partnership that seeks to protect working landscapes along California’s North Coast, particularly those that are vital to preserving the ecology, culture, and economy of this distinctive region.
The goal of this 6R2C conservation land initiative, its partners, supporters and funders is to develop a matrix of both public and private lands that function to support natural landscape functions, fish and wildlife habitat protections, and a diverse natural resource economy for rural ranch landowners. The 6R2C planning area encompasses private lands in the productive belt of forests and rangelands located between Six Rivers National Forest and the Pacific Ocean in Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties, and focuses on approximately 1,000 square miles comprised of multiple private properties that are managed primarily for natural resource production and associated values.
Central to the North Coast's ecology, culture and economy are the private resource lands and land managers which provide the functional core of the region's resource based industries. Private resource lands in the region have a complimentary, but distinctly separate role to play from the region’s public lands in achieving landscape-scale conservation objectives. As such, the individuals, organizations, and public officials involved with Six Rivers to the Sea recognize and support thoughtful conservation activities on these private lands and are working to prevent fragmentation of the land base. One vital way in which these objectives can be realized is through the cooperative development of specific land use restrictions (conservation easements) on certain private properties.
Completed 6R2C ranch projects consist of conservation easements on seven working ranches totaling nearly 25,000 acres in Humboldt County and Trinity County. These conservation easements are designed to ensure continued, sustainable timber production and natural resources protection by preventing subdivision and development, promoting the development of older and more productive forests, preserving riparian areas and watercourses (including wild salmon and steelhead habitat), and protecting oak woodlands. 6R2C focuses on the crucial link between landscape health, native biota and natural resource-based economies. As such, it represents a pioneering effort towards the integration of biological, cultural, and economic systems. Such efforts will become increasingly important as society strives to resolve the needs of its native biota with those of an expanding Californian population.
Geographic Location and Description
The 6R2C project area encompasses approximately 3,500 square miles occurring between Six Rivers National Forest and the Pacific Ocean in Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties. Private forests and rangeland ownerships of 250 acres or more comprise approximately 1,000 square miles of this area.
For a list of 6R2C conservation easement properties see our completed and current Projects.
6R2C conservation easements total approximately 25,000 acres of private ranch, river and forest land in Humboldt County. When each 6R2C ranch is depicted on a map with other conservation projects and properties, it becomes apparent that these properties form important building blocks in the broader public-private land protection landscape on the North Coast. When the properties of landowners that have expressed interest are also included, connectivity begins to take shape. We anticipate that this will bring greater levels of involvement, opportunity and commitment in the future.
Funding Six Rivers to the Sea Projects
Presently, all 6R2C ranch landowners have donated a portion (as a bargain sale) and have been paid for a portion of the appraised value associated with relinquishing development rights and subdivision potential on their properties that contain high conservation value. There are currently a handful of state and federal grant programs available to purchase development rights on these types of properties. To date, 6R2C funding has come from four primary sources: the USFS Forest Legacy Program, the CA Wildlife Conservation Board, the State Coastal Conservancy, and a landowner ‘bargain sale’. Properties are appraised for before and after conservation easement values; the difference is the value of the conservation easement.
Additional costs include Northcoast Regional Land Trust activities that are vital to establishing these conservation easements. Some of these duties include:
- Fundraise for conservation easement acquisition funds through public funding programs;
- Coordinate conservation easement negotiations, preparation, review and recording between participating agencies, landowners and land trust;
- Coordinate and administer the necessary appraisals of the subject properties;
- Coordinate property title report review and required title clearing;
- Solicit and secure monitoring and stewardship endowments to finance the long-term costs of holding the conservation easements;
- Develop baseline reports documenting the condition of properties at the time conservation easements are established;
- Raising funds for the tasks outlined above (ie, project planning, developing the easement, appraisal work, title clearing, legal review, natural resource assessment)
Six Rivers to the Sea Conservation Easement Fundamentals
The 6R2C conservation strategy is learned from restoration efforts within the North Coast region, where great strides in landowner involvement and cooperation are already being realized by the same incentive-based, non-threatening, watershed-oriented approach supported by public restoration partners.
Because of the early successes of restoration, private ranch and forest landowner appreciation for conservation easements and the resulting conservation opportunities may be unsurpassed in the 6R2C project area. Important wildlife corridors are beginning to be established. These corridors consist of a mosaic of public lands (i.e. Ca. State Parks, Six Rivers National Forest, extensive BLM holdings such as the Kings Range National Conservation Area and Redwoods National Parks), private ranches with conservation easements or conservation plans, unfragmented private ranch wildlands not at risk of conversion, and industrial timberland with habitat conservation protections. The continued success of 6R2C will ensure that investments made in restoring the resource values and habitat function of the North Coast are protected in perpetuity.
Participation by landowners in 6R2C is purely voluntary. Conservation easement language is land-use based; management authority is not conveyed to the trustee but remains with the land ownership. Common Goals of the conservation easement include:
- maintenance of the properties considerable resource lands intact and free from encroaching development,
- continuation of ranching and forestry operations, continually adapting improved management practices to sustain the businesses and improve environmental conditions,
- protection and restoration of the streams and riparian habitats found on the properties, and
- improvement of stocking and management of forest stands to optimize productivity and grow timber to an older age.
Specific project properties (or tracts) are only included in the project bundle following: extensive deliberation and disclosure, conversion risk assessment and public economic cost benefit analysis, consultation with professional representation, and execution of careful planning.
The primary purpose of the 6R2C conservation easements is to protect the forest, range, riparian and agricultural soils of the properties and the productive sustainable economic viability of the forestlands and rangelands in perpetuity. Preservation and protection of conservation values such as fish and wildlife habitat and watershed health are consistent with the easement’s primary purpose, recognized as being of great importance to the landowner, the people of the North Coast region and the people of the State of California.
The Six Rivers to the Sea project area is threatened now. In the past 10 years, at least 10 extensive forest or ranch ownerships have been subdivided in Humboldt County. Fortuna is at the center of Six Rivers to the Sea's most active conservation corridor (the Lower Eel/Van Duzen River Corridor). All participating 6R2C ranches have received attractive/lucrative offers from developers within the last few years. Almost every property has a developed subdivision within three miles of its boundary.
Economic Values at Risk
North Coast forests and rangelands are not just the most naturally productive forests and rangelands in California, but also rate among the top resource lands in the world. This mixture of high quality sustainable natural resources exists nowhere else in California. As the various conservation easement properties are included in the conserved landscape, along with large ranch and commercial forest tracts that are not at risk, a critical mass of commercial resource land -- vital to preserving wildlife corridors and sustaining a labor pool and support services like transportation, supply, manufacturing, and marketing -- is preserved (as is the economic potential of complementary industries such as tourism and outdoor recreation).
The easements are designed to maintain a dependable supply of forest products from the conserved tracts (a projected 500% increase in average annual forest product supply will be realized from the current Six Rivers to the Sea ranch tracts over the next century), and keep ranch lands in ranching.