Officials of the University of California, Merced have announced a grant of more than $11 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in Los Altos, California. The grant will enable UC Merced to acquire the 7,030-acre Virginia Smith Trust parcel northeast of the city of Merced and provide the means to achieve several important goals, including securing the proposed site for the new 2,000-acre UC Merced campus, creating a 5,030-acre conservation preserve, providing a direct contribution to the Trust's educational endowment, and triggering the release of $15 million in state-approved habitat acquisition funds from the Wildlife Conservation Board to ensure the conservation of key wetland and vernal pool resources in the surrounding area.
"David Packard was known for his vision in technology, in conservation, and in building a global enterprise," noted UC Merced chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "This marvelous support from the foundation's trustees is similarly visionary. We are deeply appreciative of this gift from the Packard Foundation, which has a special commitment to the environment and to preserving California's natural heritage. The funds from this grant will allow us to create a world-class research university in Merced at the same time that we protect unique natural habitats of eastern Merced County."
The planned development and natural preserve created by the foundation's gift will augment the efforts taken last year by Gov. Gray Davis and the state legislature to create a $30 million fund for purchase of conservation easements in eastern Merced County.