The Kern River Preserve was purchased in 1979 by The Nature Conservancy. Prior to becoming a preserve, the land was locally known as the A. Brown Ranch. The land had been operated as a cattle ranch since the mid-1800s.
Rick Hewett, the first preserve manager, was loved by the Kern Valley Community. He had a membership organization to support the preserve and published the Riparian Rag newsletter. John Ridenour had Rick on his radio station, KVLI, weekly for Nature Notes, a 5-minute nature program for children. Under Rick's management the preserve opened up to the community and everyone pitched in to build fences and plant trees. Soon the forest became thicker and the populations of native animals grew.
In 1986, Dr. Bert Anderson was hired to begin large scale revegetation of native tree species on cleared agricultural fields. The first site was the 25 acre Dump Site. The nature trail encircles this site which now blends in to the old forest.
Reed Tollefson arrived for the second year of planting trees with Dr. Anderson. Reed has either assisted or led the planting of 7 revegetation sites on the preserve.
In 1988, Rick Hewett and his family moved to Bakersfield to run The Nature Conservancy's San Joaquin office. Ron Tiller was hired as the new preserve manager. Ron came to the Kern with a history in habitat restoration. He worked with Dr. Anderson in 1989 to plant the Prince Site and in 1990 he directed The Nature Conservancy's first in-house restoration effort on the Kern River Preserve.
Reed now had 3 year's experience of restoration on the Kern River Preserve and The Nature Conservancy hired him as assistant manager to Ron. A month after Reed moved in, he hired Lynn Overtree as one of the 3 interns to help plant the Palmer Site.
In 1992, The Nature Conservancy stole Ron away from the Kern River Preserve to take over the management and restoration of the challenging Stony Creek Preserve. Reed became preserve manager of the Kern River Preserve and Lynn was hired as the assistant manager.
The last site available to plant was the Colt Site, behind the headquarters. It was planted in 1993. After the growing season of 1994, there were no more large-scale revegetation projects on the Kern River Preserve. The assistant manager position was ended at the end of that fiscal year and Lynn was rehired as the transition coordinator. Her job was to find an organization that could manage the Kern River Preserve as well or better than The Nature Conservancy.
Eight organizations and agencies were interviewed and Audubon-California was the strongest candidate. Negotiations were finalized at the end of 1996 and by February 1997, Audubon California began managing the Kern River Preserve.
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