Sacramento County will mitigate the loss of 13 acres of woodlands and grasslands due to a court-ordered tree-cutting project at Rancho Murieta Airport last year by purchasing 26 acres of similar property in the area, according to county Deputy Parks Director Jill Ritzman.
The Sacramento Valley Conservancy will take the lead in locating the land, she said. The conservancy owns Deer Creek Hills, a 4,000-plus-acre oak woodlands and grasslands area adjacent to Rancho Murieta.
"It's some good news out of this whole project," Ritzman said recently of the mitigation effort, which is paid for by the county.
The county cut down about 150 oak, walnut and cottonwood trees and trimmed a similar number on county parkland located between the airport and the Cosumnes River.
The owners of the private airport took legal action to compel the county to comply with Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements after the airport's night operations were suspended in 2001. The county is required to manage the trees and trim them to comply with FAA requirements a minimum of once every five years to keep them from intruding into the airport's safety zone.
Ritzman said it took a while to assess the environmental effects of the project, which began in August. The county sent a letter to the state Department of Fish and Game in January with a proposal to mitigate 7.88 acres of woodland and 5.1 acres of grassland by purchasing two acres for every acre impacted by the project, a total of 26.12 acres.
In addition, 10 acres of elderberry bushes disturbed during the project have to be restored, Ritzman said. The shrubs can be replanted in the area, if water can be provided for them during the three-year mitigation period, she said. The bushes host the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, a threatened species.