A land donation announced Thursday will allow the University of California to nearly double its research forests, conserving a swath of the Northern California watershed and offering academics an expanded laboratory to explore forest ecosystems.
The university will acquire 4,584 acres of mixed-conifer forests in two locations: 3,100 acres near the Pit River in Shasta County and 1,484 acres in the Lake Spaulding area of Nevada County. Before the donation, the single largest acquisition of forestland in UC history, the university held 5,131 acres in several locations across the state.
The donation was approved Wednesday by the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, a private group established to conserve 140,000 acres of watershed lands in California as part of Pacific Gas and Electric's 2004 bankruptcy settlement. But Bill Stewart, director of the UC Center for Forestry, said it would be more than a year before researchers begin working on the land; the California Public Utilities Commission must approve the hand-over, and boundaries must still be drawn and other administrative matters handled.
The university said the land would be used by researchers to investigate how forest ecosystems respond to climate change, increased fire risk and invasive species, as well as to allow students and the public access to the areas.