On February 24, 2014, the Feather River Land Trust partnered with landowner and conservationist Anne Chadwick to conserve the Loyalton Learning Landscape in Sierra Valley, protecting a working ranch, important wildlife habitat, scenic open space, and an outdoor classroom for Loyalton schools.

Chadwick Ranch in Sierra Valley

The Loyalton Learning Landscape is located on the edge of Loyalton, CA, and contains 142 acres of irrigated pasture, wetlands, and exceptional cottonwood-willow riparian and riverine habitats.

The ranch is centered in Sierra Valley, which is designated by the National Audubon Society as a Nationally-Important Bird Area and an important stopover in the Pacific Flyway. Three diverted channels of Smithneck Creek - a major tributary to the Middle Fork Feather River - run through the property and sustain exceptional cottonwood-willow habitat. The Loyalton Learning Landscape is home to rainbow trout, American dippers, diverse songbirds including yellow warblers and Bullock’s orioles, many raptor species, including barn owl, bald and golden eagle, prairie falcon, northern harrier, ferruginus hawk, rough-legged hawk, and a host of other unique wildlife species. It also provides migratory and winter habitat for the Truckee-Loyalton Mule Deer Herd. 

Students walking on Learning Landscape property
Located across the street from Loyalton Elementary and High Schools, the Loyalton Learning Landscape will provide an ideal outdoor classroom for Loyalton children of all ages. Loyalton High School has an award-winning agriculture program (the last remaining program in Plumas and Sierra Counties), and staff and students are eager to integrate outdoor learning on the site into their program. FRLT’s school-based K-12 Learning Landscapes program will highlight agriculture and local food production as well as stream and meadow restoration and ecology.

Conservation of the Loyalton Learning Landscape

The conservation of the ranch was accomplished through a unique partnership with FRLT, landowner Anne Chadwick, and Loyalton schools. Purchase of the conservation easement was made possible with generous funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Northern Sierra Partnership, Hind Foundation and the Gimbel Foundation with generous support for preliminary conservation work from the Mellam Family Foundation, Firedoll Foundation, Morgan Family Foundation and FRLT members.

Stewardship of the Ranch

The Loyalton Learning Landscape will be managed for sustainable agricultural production, meadow and riparian habitats, and educational value. The easement differentiates three distinct habitat zones:

  • Education and Habitat Zone 1: This zone will be fenced off for student learning and management as a natural meadow ecosystem.
  • Education and Habitat Zone 2: This zone will be a shared zone for agricultural production and student learning and restoration projects.
  • Agricultural Zone 3: This zone will emphasize agricultural production and stewardship and will be managed by the ag leaseholder.

Einen Grandi, part of a long-time Sierra Valley ranching family, continues to lease the property for hay production and cattle grazing. 

NOTE: This property is privately owned and managed as a working ranch and outdoor classroom and is not open to the general public.

Photo credits: Smithneck Channel view, Chris Dallas. Students on land, Rob Wade.