Of particular cultural significance to Maidu Native Americans in Plumas County, Humbug Valley has been transferred to the Maidu Summit Consortium by PG&E, with a special celebration held at the Yellow Creek Campground on Sept. 20.
The Consortium is comprised of nine Mountain Maidu tribes, supported by nonprofit and grassroots organizations located in Plumas and Lassen counties.
The 2,325 acres of land also will be protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement jointly held by the Feather River Land Trust and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Humbug Valley, or Tásmam Koyóm in the Maidu language, is a large meadow complex featuring Yellow Creek, which meanders throughout the length of the valley, transitioning into coniferous forest at the property’s upland boundaries, and also contains a state fish and wildlife-designated wild trout stream.
The property lies within the ancestral territory of the Mountain Maidu and contains soda springs, ceremonial and spiritual sites, and Maidu ethnobotanical resources.
The Maidu community continues to utilize parts of Tásmam Koyóm for ceremonial gatherings as it has in the past for generations.
In a 2003 bankruptcy settlement, PG&E agreed to permanently protect the beneficial public values on approximately 140,000 acres of watershed land associated with its hydroelectric generation facilities. In some cases, parcels would be donated to qualified entities.
Again in 2004, as part of the settlement, the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council was established to work with public entities and nonprofit conservation organizations to ensure these acres of California’s pristine watershed lands in the Sierra Nevada, Cascades and North Coast Range were conserved in perpetuity for the public good.
To date, 11,968 acres have been donated to 18 entities in 44 transactions, all with conservation easements or equivalent protections.
Another 26,301 acres of land retained by PG&E also have conservation easements secured.
PG&E acquired the Humbug Valley parcel when it purchased Oro Electric Corp in 1917. The Oro Water, Light and Power Company, which was succeeded by Oro Electric Corp, acquired land and water rights in Humbug Valley for a reservoir for hydropower operations; however, the reservoir was never built.
PG&E did not develop the land but did lease the meadow for cattle grazing, ending that practice in 2001. The company provided public recreation opportunities at the Yellow Creek Campground as well.
The MSC applied for ownership of the property in 2007, and in 2018 the Stewardship Council board approved the proposed Land Conservation and Conveyance Plan for the Humbug Valley conservation easement and land donation.
The California Public Utilities Commission approved the transfer in 2019.
“The Maidu People take solace in the knowledge that we will forever be connected to our homeland, engaged with our heritage and our ways,” said Kenneth Holbrook, acting executive director of the Maidu Summit Consortium, adding that, “By owning Tásmam Koyóm, we have now reclaimed a future for our children that is uniquely Maidu. Our lives are renewed.”
The property is located southwest of Lake Almanor. Through the conservation easement, the Feather River Land Trust and state Fish And Wildlife are ensuring the permanent protection of open space, plant and wildlife habitat, sustainable forestry, agricultural uses, outdoor recreation by the general public, and historic and cultural values.
“There is a beauty and calmness at Humbug Valley that invokes connection and love for the land,” said Art Baggett, president of the Stewardship Council Board of Directors. “As a mountaineer and naturalist I’ve experienced many beautiful places, but rarely have I and my fellow Board members felt so inspired by the land as at Humbug Valley.”
Mike Schonherr, director of strategic agreements at PG&E and member of the Stewardship Council Board of Directors said, “This is an historic event about which we all should be proud. PG&E is pleased to donate the land in this beautiful and culturally significant valley, knowing this critical resource will forever be protected by the Consortium and continue to be available for the enjoyment of future generations of the Maidu people and the public.”