Some 290 acres of oak woodland, meadows and a 33-acre reservoir near Brownsboro are now protected in perpetuity, thanks to a conservation easement the owners have signed with the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy.
Landowners Jim and Elise Scheffel signed an agreement with the conservancy Wednesday to limit development on the property to preserve the property's rich habitat for flora and fauna.
In the small-world department, the property in the School House Creek watershed once was co-owned by the late Ben Day, one of the principal founders of the conservancy when it was formed late in 1978.
In essence, the model of land conservation Day championed has now come full circle, observed Executive Director Diane Garcia.
"This means the land won't be subdivided," she said. "The oak woodlands will always be protected and well managed. There is a lot of wildlife habitat on this land."
"You couldn't design a more ideal property for deer and elk winter range," observed Vince Oredson, Jr., a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Oak woodland is a threatened habitat in Southern Oregon, where less than 1 percent of the woodlands that greeted European settlers remain, Garcia noted.
In addition to deer and elk, the land houses raccoons, bobcats, eagles, geese, ducks, turkeys, quail and countless other creatures.
The Pacific Coast Joint Venture, which develops partnerships to protect and restore habitat for birds and other wildlife, was a funding partner for the project.
Rare plants include the Southern Oregon buttercup, which is found only in Jackson County.
The Scheffels have managed the property for three decades to support wildlife, and now the stewardship they provided will continue for generations to come, Garcia said.
"This ensures their land and its habitat will continue to be well taken care of," she reiterated.
Jim Scheffel is a retired civil engineer, his wife a former English teacher. The Scheffels, who bought the property from Day and others who owned it, spent the lion's share of their professional careers in Alaska.
Day, who died in 1998 at age 86, was a lawyer, rancher and state legislator. He was a graduate of Medford Senior High School, what is now Southern Oregon University and Willamette University Law School. From 1949 through 1955, he served in the Oregon Legislature, first in the House, then the Senate.
Intent on protecting working farms, forests and ranchlands from urban sprawl, he was one of the principal founders of the conservancy, which held its first meeting on Nov. 14, 1978.
He served as the first president for what is now one of Oregon's largest land trusts.
The land was previously owned by Ira Woolfolk, who built a dam in 1954, creating Woolfolk Reservoir, which stretches to 33 acres when full.
Last year, the SOLC became an accredited land trust, one of 201 nationwide. The accreditation demonstrates that the conservancy meets or exceeds the national standard and that its conservation efforts are permanent.
In the past 35 years, the conservancy has established more than 50 conservation easements on nearly 9,000 acres in the region. Its goal is to conserve 20,000 acres of high-priority land by 2020.
For more information about the conservancy, call 541-482-3069 or check out www.landconserve.org.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.