Campus: Sonoma State University -- September 27, 2004

Roth Family Donates 190 Acres To Nearly Double Size Of SSU Nature Preserve On Sonoma Mountain

William and Joan Roth have donated 190 acres of land adjacent to Sonoma State University's 221-acre Fairfield Osborn Preserve, nearly doubling the size of the nature preserve in the hills above Rohnert Park. The property is valued at close to a million dollars.

California State University Board of Trustees approved the donation recently at its September board meeting.

SSU will now own a total of 411 acres of property that includes the 2,300-foot northern ridgeline of Sonoma Mountain. The site consists primarily of mature oak woodlands, grasslands, freshwater marsh, a vernal pool, and a riparian corridor, all communities of critical ecological importance.

It is home to "at-risk" species including the Red-legged frog, the Foothill yellow-legged frog, the Western Pond Turtle, Cooper's hawk, Sharp-shinned hawk, Golden Eagle, and the Lobb's aquatic buttercup.

Fairfield Osborn Preserve was established by The Nature Conservancy in 1972 through a land gift from the Roths in honor of Joan's father, Fairfield Osborn. For the past 32 years, Fairfield Osborn Preserve has provided natural history education programs for university students, elementary school children, and the public.

The Preserve also hosts 25 research projects from 11 different institutions, the most significant of which concerns the spread of Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. SSU co-hosted an international meeting of scientists concerned about SOD in Spring 2004.

Nathan Rank, director of the Preserve, says that the gift will greatly expand educational and research opportunities for students and faculty members. "This is a vote of confidence in SSU," says FOP manager Julia Clothier. "It shows that the Roths trust and respect the way the Preserve has been managed since The Nature Conservancy donated it to the University in 1997."

Also pleased with the donation is the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District which paid the Roths $2.2 million of voter-approved sales tax funding this year for development rights to the property. Andrea Mackenzie, the agency's general manger, said the Roths have been long-time supporters of conservation in Sonoma County, starting in the 1970's when they created the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.

"We are extremely pleased to hear that the property will now be donated to Sonoma State University for incorporation into the Preserve." She noted the Roths intend to donate an 11.3-acre portion of the property to the District as part of the District's ongoing efforts on Sonoma Mountain to add to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. "The Roth's generosity is so gratefully appreciated today, and furthers the family's legacy," she says.

Fairfield Osborn was a well-known naturalist, writer, and conservation advisor to several U.S. presidential administrations. In 1948 Osborn's book "Our Plundered Planet" was published, a prophetic work in which he warned that the earth's resources were not inexhaustible and that the ecological web connecting all life could be broken by thoughtless, irreparable action.

He was the son of the famous paleontologist Henry F. Osborn, president Of the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Zoological Society.

Contact: Jean Wasp. Media Relations Coordinator, (707) 664-2057


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