Another area along the North Bay shoreline has been in the news lately: the 1,679 acres of the Sonoma Baylands located at the intersection of Lakeville Highway and Highway 37. On November 10, 2003, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria gifted its option to purchase these wetlands, valued at an estimated $4.2 million, to the Sonoma Land Trust. The tribe is also expected to hand over an additional 300 acres. The tribe’s gift is the largest-ever donation of private property rights for the purpose of conservation in the Sonoma Baylands region; it also signals the end of the tribe’s controversial proposal to build a casino on this sensitive estuarine site. The tribe is now negotiating with authorities to build a casino on the outskirts of Rohnert Park, south of Santa Rosa. The Sonoma Land Trust will work with the Graton Rancheria, Bay Institute, Madrone Audubon Society, and other groups to restore more than 4,000 acres of the Sonoma Baylands, including salt marshes and shorebird habitat, as well as provide open-space recreational opportunities for the public.
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