By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two pieces of private property, one large and one small, were added to the rolls of protected lands in Sonoma County this week.
Separately, the property owners donated most of their development rights, in the form of conservation easements, to the Sonoma Land Trust, the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit.
Neither easement permits public use of the property.
One is a 420-acre mountain-top spread on the eastern rim of Sonoma Valley. The other is a six-acre wetland parcel between Graton and Forestville off Highway 116.
The Thacher family donated the easement to the larger ranch property. It includes a 2,275-foot peak called Bald Mountain — different from the summit of the same name in the adjacent Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The ranch also has a number of habitats thought to be key for wildlife and plant species in the area.
The late Carter and Mary Thacher, who bought the ranch in the 1970s, envisioned it remaining undeveloped, family members said.
“It’s what our parents wanted and it’s what the land deserves,” David Thacher, one of the couple’s three children said in a prepared statement.
The wetland property off Highway 116, owned by Jon and Catherine Sassin, has a tributary of Pitkin Creek and a slice of Pitkin Marsh. The marsh is home to some of Sonoma County’s rarest plants, including the white sedge, believed extinct until discovered in the area in 1983.
About 27 acres of the marsh were purchased in 2007 with state and county open space funds. The easement donated by the Sassins over six acres secures a southern buffer and a chunk of “irreplaceable” habitat, said Wendy Eliot, conservation director for Sonoma Land Trust.
The group allows volunteers access to the 27-acre property area during stewardship work days. Otherwise the marsh is off-limits to protect the rare plant species.