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Rogue River Preserve close to fundraising goal

EAGLE POINT — The Rogue River Preserve is on the cusp of becoming reality as the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy heads into its final month of fundraising.

SOLC so far has garnered $3.315 million in grants and donations to buy the 352-acre McArthur Ranch and will learn next weekend whether it will secure a $100,000 grant from the Portland-based Collins Foundation, SOLC Executive Director Diane Garcia said.

The group has a $3.5 million goal for buying the ranch.

The Collins grant is the last large foundation grant sought the group's "Heart of the Rogue" fundraising campaign launched about 18 months ago, Garcia said.

"We're not very far away from our goal, and I'm very optimistic that we'll get there by the end of the month," Garcia said.

The Ashland-based nonprofit organization mailed donation requests Friday to 4,000 households of people known to donate to environmental and conservation causes, Garcia said.

"I think a lot of folks wait until they think a project is going to go through," Garcia said. "It's feeling very attainable to me."

The MacArthur family, descendants of former Mail Tribune publisher Robert Ruhl, has accepted SOLC's $2.4 million offer to buy the ranch, which was appraised at $3 million, as long as the conservancy raises the money by the end of December.

The $3.5 million fundraising target would cover the land's purchase and pay for some improvements, as well as create an endowment that would fund protection and enhancement of its myriad unique natural features in perpetuity.

Headed by actor Patrick Duffy, best known for his role on the former "Dallas" television series, who lives across the Rogue from the planned preserve, the "Heart of the Rogue" campaign received $1.38 million in Oregon Lottery profits from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, as well as awards from small groups and individuals.

The ranch is along Upper River Road near Highway 234 along the Rogue's north bank.

The property is a mosaic of the different types of habitat that once dominated the upper Rogue River Basin before cattle pastures, ranchettes and dream homes changed the landscape.

The lands near Upper River Road contain chaparral and buckbrush that help draw black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk. Vernal pools dot the landscape in spring and become meadows later in the year sprinkled with natural springs, extremely rare white fairy poppy plants and surprisingly few invasive Himalayan blackberries.

Much of the ranch is unblemished by non-native vegetation, but even some of the invasive plants that are present are losing ground naturally.

The property's brightest horticultural gem is its mature oak woodlands that form the second-largest intact riparian forest along 100 miles of the Rogue. The only larger one is the publicly owned and hard to reach oak woodlands around the old Gold Ray Dam impoundment.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.