Weger Ranch

Conservation easement protects more than 3,000 acres of redwood forest adjacent to Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

Adjacent to Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve, the Weger Ranch property is the largest non-industrial, private forest in the Big River watershed. It contains 3,066 acres of coast redwood and Douglas-fir forest, with nearly 400 old-growth trees scattered throughout the property.

The League has partnered with the landowners to permanently protect the land with a conservation easement. Under the easement, the owners retain property rights, but the land is protected forever from subdivision, development, and excessive logging, regardless of who owns it in the future or how many times the property changes hands. Sixty-two acres of reserve areas will be established where the forest will be allowed to return to old-growth conditions.

The owners of Weger Ranch have innovated and set a high bar for sustainable forestry in the region. The ranch is under two active Non-Industrial Timber Management Plans on 2,394 acres, in which timber is harvested at a rate that is lower than the growth rate of the forest and individually selected, resulting in a diverse forest structure. These practices will endure under the conservation easement, along with additional restrictions in riparian zones and protection of all residual old-growth trees. In the current owners’ good hands, now is an opportune time to ensure permanent protection of this forest.

This project is part of a big vision to expand protection around Montgomery Woods and improve access to this spectacular old-growth grove. Related projects include the August 2022 fee acquisition of the 453-acre Atkins Place property, which will ultimately be added to the reserve, as well as a partnership with California State Parks to redesign the visitor experience in Montgomery Woods in the coming years.

With the Atkins Place acquisition and the opportunity to protect Weger Ranch, a landscape of over 11,500 acres will be assembled, complementing the existing protected lands in this region. Protection at this scale contributes to California’s 30×30 goals for landscape protection, carbon storage, and biodiversity.

Weger Ranch contains seven stream headwaters, all of which drain into the Big River watershed, a critical coastal watershed for imperiled salmon species. The ranch has 2.75 miles of steelhead and coho salmon streams, including 1 mile of chinook salmon stream. The land also provides habitat for northern spotted owls, goshawks, white-tailed kites, peregrine falcons, and golden eagles (winter habitat), as well as red tree voles, foothill yellow-legged frogs, bears, and mountain lions.

A fee acquisition of Rocky Ridge, an 80-acre parcel bordering both Montgomery Woods and a Bureau of Land Management parcel, is included in this agreement. The 80-acre parcel contains the headwaters of Montgomery Creek, which flows through the heart of the reserve’s old growth. The League will donate the land via a direct deed from the owners to California State Parks as an addition to Montgomery Woods, providing an opportunity to expand the reserve’s trail network to a ridge overlooking the grove’s old-growth canopy and the surrounding landscape.

The League funded the conservation with donations, as well as a $9.5 million grant from Cal Fire and a $3.42 million grant from the State Coastal Conservancy.

Together with the acquisition of Atkins Place and the redesign of Montgomery Woods, this project contributes to the League’s centennial vision to protect and restore redwood forests and connect people with the redwoods through inspiring parks experiences.

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