Roth Family Donates 190 Acres to Nearly Double of
SSU Nature Preserve on Sonoma Mountain
and Joan Roth have donated 190 acres of land adjacent to Sonoma State
University's 221-acre Fairfield Osborn Preserve, nearly doubling the size
of the nature preserve in the hills above Rohnert Park. The property is
valued at close to a million dollars.
California State University Board of Trustees approved the donation recently
at its September board meeting.
SSU will now own a total of 411 acres of property that includes the 2,300-foot
northern ridgeline of Sonoma Mountain. The site consists primarily of
mature oak woodlands, grasslands, freshwater marsh, a vernal pool, and
a riparian corridor, all communities of critical ecological importance.
It is home to "at-risk" species including the Red-legged frog, the Foothill
yellow-legged frog, the Western Pond Turtle, Cooper's hawk, Sharp-shinned
hawk, Golden Eagle, and the Lobb's aquatic buttercup.
Fairfield Osborn Preserve was established by The Nature Conservancy in
1972 through a land gift from the Roths in honor of Joan’s father, Fairfield
Osborn. For the past 32 years, Fairfield Osborn Preserve has provided
natural history education programs for university students, elementary
school children, and the public.
The Preserve also hosts 25 research projects from 11 different institutions,
the most significant of which concerns the spread of Sudden Oak Death
Syndrome. SSU co-hosted an international meeting of scientists concerned
about SOD in Spring 2004.
Nathan Rank, director of the Preserve, says that the gift will greatly
expand educational and research opportunities for students and faculty
members. "This is a vote of confidence in SSU," says FOP manager Julia
Clothier. "It shows that the Roths trust and respect the way the Preserve
has been managed since The Nature Conservancy donated it to the University
Also pleased with the donation is the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation
& Open Space District which paid the Roths $2.2 million of voter-approved
sales tax funding this year for development rights to the property. Andrea
Mackenzie, the agency's general manger, said the Roths have been long-time
supporters of conservation in Sonoma County, starting in the 1970's when
they created the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.
"We are extremely pleased to hear that the property will now be donated
to Sonoma State University for incorporation into the Preserve." She noted
the Roths intend to donate an 11.3-acre portion of the property to the
District as part of the District's ongoing efforts on Sonoma Mountain
to add to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. "The Roth's generosity is so gratefully
appreciated today, and furthers the family's legacy, " she says.
Fairfield Osborn was a well-known naturalist, writer, and conservation
advisor to several U.S. presidential administrations. In 1948 Osborn’s
book "Our Plundered Planet" was published, a prophetic work in which he
warned that the earth’s resources were not inexhaustible and that the
ecological web connecting all life could be broken by thoughtless, irreparable
He was the son of the famous paleontologist Henry F. Osborn, president
of the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Zoological
ABOVE: Joan and William Roth at Fairfield Osborn Preserve. (Photo
by Julia Clothier)
Map of the Preserve