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Mendocino County old-growth redwood forest protected in $24.7 million conservation deal

San Francisco socialite and civic leader Charlotte Mailliard Shultz and her family have agreed to a $24.7 million deal that protects a nearly 15,000-acre ranch with old-growth redwood forests in southern Mendocino County.

The Mailliard Ranch, said to contain the largest coast redwood forest left in private family hands, lies west of Highway 128 in the Anderson Valley between Yorkville and Boonville. It has been owned by the Mailliards since 1925.

Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has been protecting redwood forests since 1918, announced the deal Tuesday. It includes three conservation easements that prevent subdivision and development of the entire 14,838-acre property, regardless of future ownership.

Calling Mailliard Ranch “an exquisite place,” league president Sam Hodder said in a statement that its protection had been a “decadeslong priority” for his organization, which has preserved more than 216,000 acres of forest in 66 state, national and local parks and reserves.

The easements will “bolster the long-term health of an entire landscape and watershed” and support climate change mitigation by continuing to “capture significant amounts of carbon dioxide,” he said.

The Mailliard family retains ownership and will be allowed to continue selective timber harvesting of second-growth trees. There will be no public access to the ranch.

“The old growth built San Francisco twice, so there isn’t a lot of redwood — true old growth — left in the area,” Larry Mailliard, general partner of the ranch, said in the statement.

Mailliard said his grandmother, Kate Mailliard, treasured the 58-acre Cathedral Grove, one of the ranch’s two old-growth groves.

“Grandmother’s philosophy was, ‘Why go sit in a 100-year-old church when I could talk to a 2,500-year-old tree?’ ” he said.

Kate and her husband, John Ward Mailliard Jr., began buying the ranch in 1925, ultimately amassing a property with 69 potential legal lots that could be sold to developers.

Mailliard Ranch is a “stronghold for biodiversity,” the league said, inhabited by endangered owls and turtles as well as bats, golden eagles and more than 150 native plant species.

The easements also cover the Garcia and Navarro river headwaters, 28 miles of salmon-bearing streams and nearly 1,000 acres of old-growth and mature second-growth redwood forests.

Along with several adjacent properties, the network of preserves in the region now spans 82,000 acres stretching from Anderson Valley toward the Mendocino Coast.

Those lands include Mailliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve, donated by the family to the league for inclusion in the state parks system in 1954, and the nearly 24,000-acre Garcia River Forest managed by The Conservation Fund for sustainable timber production and carbon sequestration.

Randy Moore, a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service, said in the statement the Mailliard Ranch project covered the largest nonindustrial, privately owned redwood forest in the nation.

Nearly a decade in the works, the project nearly doubles the amount of land the league has preserved in Mendocino County, bringing it to 34,000 acres.

“It’s beautiful, it’s big,” said Catherine Elliott, the league’s senior manager of land protection, extolling the ranch’s cool, shaded forest and open grasslands with the “hidden gem” of old-growth redwoods.

Protecting a swath of Anderson Valley was significant because the rural area is being fragmented by property sales, she said.

Funding for the deal included more than $8 million from league donors, including a $250,000 match challenge offered by Justin Faggioli and Sandra Donnell of Sonoma, both league councilors, and grants from numerous federal and state agencies.

Charlotte Mailliard Shultz and her late husband, George, were among the leaders of the extended family’s effort to conserve the ranch in discussions with the league dating back to 2011.

A Texas native, the former Charlotte Smith arrived in San Francisco in 1963 with a friend and $35, according to a profile in Haute Living, a magazine.

She met John Ward “Jack” Mailliard III while volunteering in a mayoral candidate’s campaign in the 1960s. He died in 1986 and was buried on the family ranch. Two years later she married Mel Swig, owner of the Fairmont Hotel, who died in 1993.

Charlotte Mailliard’s marriage to her third husband, George Shultz, at Grace Cathedral in 1997, was described as the “social event of the year” in San Francisco.

George Shultz, who served more than six years as former President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state and was a professor emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, died Saturday at age 100.

His widow, who is San Francisco’s chief of protocol, has served on numerous governing boards including the San Francisco opera, symphony, ballet and modern art and received numerous awards, including California woman of the year in 1996 and 2000 and the title of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order bestowed by Queen Elizabeth in 2007.

Charlotte Schulz was not available for comment in the wake of her husband’s death.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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