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East Bay lawmakers desperate to buy gorgeous $72M ranch

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Many hope the 80-square-mile property, for sale for the first time in nearly a century, will become California’s newest state park

In the East Bay there’s a 50,500-acre cattle ranch full of pristine California wilderness asking $72 million. And while some California lawmakers want to buy it, the state’s new budget proposal leaves them tens of millions of dollars short.

Last summer, the property N3 Cattle Company hit the market for the first time in 85 years, according to the listing by broker Todd Renfrew.

The stretch is so large that it spans four counties, most of it in Alameda and Santa Clara, but also spilling over into nearby Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

Renfrew suggests that potential buyers can employ the land to raise several thousand head of cattle annually, turn it into habitat for game ranging from ground squirrels to wild pigs and elk, or convert the various cabins and four-bedroom house on the property into offices.

However, Contra Costa County-based State Sen. Steve Glazer has another idea: He wants the state to buy the whole lot and turn it into California’s newest state park.

In a statement last week, Glazer and 16 other state lawmakers called the sale a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to secure an enormous swath of land that, though employed as grounds for livestock for nearly a century, is still in sterling condition.

(The sales video—via a narrator who sounds distinctly like Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott—promises “steep canyons, rolling woodlands, grasslands, rugged rock outcroppings, secluded meadows, and impressive watersheds.”)

“This irreplaceable property is for sale now,” said Glazer, noting the urgency of the situation—if a private buyer swoops in on the property before the state acts, there’s no telling what might happen to it or if the chance will ever come up again.

The latest California budget proposal does include funds for acquiring new parkland, but only to the tune of $20 million. The lawmakers say conservation groups can put up $30 million of their own money to bolster the purchase, but that leaves the effort still more than $20 million short.

Still, it’s been six months since the original listing, so perhaps a $50 million payday—and the prospect of helping create a lasting monument to the beauty of California’s landscape just about 15 miles east of Fremont—will prove sufficiently moving.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that he has some properties in mind for that $20 million earmark but hasn’t publicly stated what they may be—lest sellers drive up the prices upon hearing of gubernatorial interest.

That doesn’t sound like he’s planning to plow the whole sum into one piece of land, but there’s yet time for a surprise, and for supporters of the N3 purchase to possibly make their voices heard.