The Carrizo Plain Conservancy has completed the purchase of a 320-acre parcel near Highway 58 for conservation, the latest in a series of efforts to protect the endangered kit fox.
The parcel in the northern Carrizo Plain area is adjacent to land already owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The land will be transferred to that department to be conserved in perpetuity as high-quality habitat for the endangered San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat and other native species, conservancy president Neil Havlik said Tuesday.
San Joaquin kit foxes are the smallest foxes in North America, weighing in at just five pounds. Their native habitat — wildlands south of Stanislaus County — shrank in the 20th century due to farming and development.
The Carrizo Plain parcel, known as the Hayes property, was purchased with funding from the county's kit fox mitigation in-lieu fee program, according to Dave Hacker, who coordinates conservation and mitigation banking in the area for Fish and Wildlife.
That program requires developers to mitigate impacts to kit fox habitat in North County areas, including on the Carrizo Plain.
Project backers such as home builders or wineries have to mitigate for the loss of kit fox habitat. One way to do that is by paying the fee.
Several parcels have been acquired through the same free program fund, and all the work has been done by the Sequoia Riverlands Trust and the Carrizo Plain Conservancy, Hacker said.
The conservancy also announced Tuesday that it recently acquired 17 parcels, totaling 140 acres, to offer to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for inclusion in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The parcels were private holdings within the monument's boundaries that were purchased or donated in 2017 and 2018.
"The ultimate goal is to link up lands in the north to the monument itself," Havlik said. "We're looking for places where people are willing to sell their land or grant a conservation easement for wildlife management."