More Than 25,000 Acres of Vernal Pool Habitat Preserved through Conservation Effort Related to New UC Merced Campus

MERCED, CA — As part of an unprecedented conservation program related to the creation of the new University of California, Merced campus, more than 25,000 acres of grassland habitat in eastern Merced County have now been designated for preservation, it was announced today by UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey

The landmark of 25,000 acres - more than 39 square miles - was reached with the acquisition of the Cyril Smith Trust (CST) property north of Lake Yosemite. The California State Wildlife Conservation Board approved the CST purchase earlier this month.

"We are very pleased to be part of a conservation effort that to date has preserved an area more than twice the size of the entire city of Santa Barbara," said Tomlinson-Keasey. "These preservation measures are actually saving a complete landscape, not just pieces," said Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "This is a truly satisfying project for the University because we're helping protect the beautiful eastern Merced County natural landscape from future development. It's a win-win for everyone, especially for future generations."

In 1999, Governor Davis and the State Legislature created a $30 million fund to acquire and preserve habitat in eastern Merced County and mitigate for the effects of the creation of the new UC Merced campus. As of today, this conservation program, directed by the California Wildlife Conservation Board and facilitated by The Nature Conservancy, has already designated more than 20,000 acres for preservation.

In addition to the 20,000 acres, another 5,000 acres adjacent to the core campus have been set aside for conservation, along with a 750-acre special natural reserve, thanks to the generous gifts of $12.5 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and $2 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The unprecedented vernal pool conservation effort has been successful thanks to the work of the University, California Governor Gray Davis, the California State Legislature, federal elected representatives, various state and federal agencies, and private conservation groups, said Tomlinson-Keasey.

UC Merced, the 10th campus of the University of California system, is the first major research university to be built in the United States in the 21st century. Currently employing approximately 100 educators and professionals, UC Merced has a special mission to serve the educational needs of the San Joaquin Valley. The University's main campus in Merced is scheduled to open in 2004 to serve 1,000 students. Over the coming decades, the campus is expected to grow to a student population of 25,000. UC Merced contributes to educational access through the entire San Joaquin region via educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield, and the Tri-College Center in Merced. Another center is planned for Modesto.

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