Kernville, CA, – Twenty-five years after
conservationists started acquiring and restoring
land on the South Fork
Kern River, the National Audubon Society
announced the purchase of the Sprague Ranch.
This acquisition doubles the size of
Audubon’s Kern River Preserve, adding 1,640
acres of rare cottonwood willow forest to this
Mecca for birds and birders.
“Audubon’s Kern River Preserve draws visitors
from all over California, particularly in the
spring during the height of spring
migration,” says Debbie Kiggens, a local
businesswoman, “The Preserve has been a good
neighbor in our community.”
The Sprague Ranch purchase (see
attached details) occurred through a unique
partnership bringing federal, state, and private
partners together to help secure
important cottonwood willow (riparian) forest,
one of California’s most threatened habitats
more than 90 percent lost in the past two
The Sprague Ranch acquisition not only secures
key habitat for the Willow Flycatcher, it also
benefits more than a dozen other
sensitive bird species, including the
Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The 15-mile-long riparian
corridor that makes up the South Fork Kern
River has been identified by Audubon as an
Important Bird Areas because it holds a globally
significant population of Southwestern
Audubon’s Kern River Preserve
including the Allen Sanctuary and the Kelso
Creek Preserve now encompass 3,327
acres, including five miles of frontage on the
South Fork Kern River. “The
addition of the Sprague Ranch is critical to
conserving this valley’s natural heritage, and I
can’t thank the Sprague Family enough
for working with us over the past several years
to complete this transaction,” said Reed
Tollefson, Audubon’s Kern River Preserve
“By preserving open space and riparian forest,
we allow the Kern Valley to retain some of its
rural setting and natural beauty – an
important asset to a community that relies upon
tourism,” said Glenn Olson, Audubon California’s
Tens of thousands of visitors come to the Kern
Valley for recreation, including an increasing
number who come to enjoy the
valley’s diversity of nesting and migratory
birds. “Audubon’s work makes it possible for
California’s families to enjoy this jewel of
the southern Sierra,” said Al Wright,
director, California Wildlife Conservation
The Sprague Ranch purchase will also provide
other public benefits by increasing the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers flexibility in
operating Isabella Reservoir for water storage
and hydropower production.
Funding for the acquisition was provided by the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with funds secured
by Congressman Bill Thomas,
California Wildlife Conservation Board through
funds from Proposition 40 approved by California
voters in 2001, the David and
Lucile Packard Foundation’s Conserving
California’s Landscapes Initiative, and the
National Audubon Society.
“Audubon is pleased to have worked with a broad
range of partners on the Sprague Ranch purchase
and to be part of the
community in the Kern River Valley,” said
It’s important to note that funds from
Proposition 40 bond, passed overwhelmingly by
voters in 2001, were vital to making this
acquisition possible,” said Olson. “California
residents should be applauded for their role in
this important conservation effort.”
For over 100 years Audubon has been protecting
birds and other wildlife and the habitat that
supports them. Our national
network of community-based nature centers and
chapters, scientific and educational programs,
and advocacy on behalf of areas
sustaining important bird populations, engage
millions of people of all ages and backgrounds
in positive conservation experiences.
Sprague acquisition looking west from the
western edge of the south fork Kern.
Chaparral is now a component of the Kern River
Looking east toward the South Fork Kern from the
hills along Fay Ranch Road.
The hills and grassland to the left of the
forest comprise just a portion of the new
property of the Kern River Preserve. The
riparian (riverbank) forest on the right is part
of the Kern River Preserve and is watered by the
free flowing South Fork Kern River.
# # #
April 11, 2005
acres of the Sprague Ranch was acquired on March
31, 2005 for $4,445,000.
1,640 acres will be
incorporated into the National Audubon Society’s
Kern River Preserve and;
2,718 acres was purchased by California Wildlife
Conservation Board will be managed by the
California Department of Fish and Game.
The Army Corps of Engineers has established a
$3.2 million endowment to support restoration
and good stewardship by Audubon and the
California Department of Fish and Game.
This complex transaction involved funding from
federal and state agencies and private partners.
The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) provided
mitigation funds to help acquire habitat for the
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, a federally
endangered bird species that nests in the river
forests of the Kern River Preserve and along the
South Fork Kern River. The purchase will benefit
numerous other sensitive bird species.
Audubon, together with the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, California Department of Fish and
Game, California Wildlife Conservation Board,
and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, has
worked to acquire and protect suitable habitat
for the Southwest Willow Flycatcher since 1995,
when Willow Flycatcher nests were flooded during
a high water year by Isabella Reservoir.
The purchase will allow the Isabella Reservoir
to resume normal operations, providing maximum
water and hydropower to benefit Californians
while ensuring that the Willow Flycatcher and
many other species of wildlife have the habitat
they need to survive.
Acquisition Funding Sources:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $1,707,045;
California Wildlife Conservation Board
National Audubon Society $800,000 from a grant
from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s
Conserving California’s Landscape Initiative.
Endowment Funding Source:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $3,200,000.
Flora of Audubon's Allen Sanctuary