Rogue River Preserve gets a boost
EAGLE POINT — Plans to buy and preserve a 352-acre ranch along the upper Rogue River leaped closer to reality this week when the group behind the purchase secured an Oregon Lottery grant covering more than half the purchase price.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board signed off Wednesday on a $1,385,255 grant requested by the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy to help buy the MacArthur Ranch and turn it into the Rogue River Preserve.
The MacArthur family, descendants of former Mail Tribune publisher Robert Ruhl, have accepted a $2.4 million offer to sell the ranch, which was appraised at $3 million, to the conservancy if it raises the money by the end of December.
The OWEB grant was the largest sought by the land conservancy toward the project and was considered the linchpin of its $3.5 million "Heart of the Rogue" capital campaign launched earlier this year.
"It's the centerpiece to our puzzle, so it's great to see it come through," SOLC Executive Director Diane Garcia says.
The $3.5 million 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.
Former "Dallas" actor Patrick Duffy and his wife, Carlyn Duffy, who have lived across the Rogue from the MacArthur Ranch for 25 years, are the campaign's chairs.
So far, the campaign has raised $1.617 million, and two federal grant requests totaling more than $1 million are still in the pipeline, Garcia says. For the remaining money, the group is targeting grants from foundations as well as corporate and personal gifts, she says.
The ranch is along the Rogue's north bank immediately upstream of Jackson County's Dodge Bridge boat ramp just off Highway 234. Ruhl bought it in 1943 as a weekend getaway, and aside from two small structures the land has remained largely undisturbed for hundreds of years, according to SOLC.
The property is a mosaic of the different types of habitat that once dominated the upper Rogue River Basin but largely have given way over time to cleared cattle pastures, ranchettes and dream homes.
The lands near Upper River Road contain chaparral and buck brush 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 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 primarily unreachable oak woodlands around the old Gold Ray Dam impoundment.