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In 2001, the vernal pool landscape north and east of campus was set aside as part of the more than $11 million grant that provided land for the UC Merced campus through the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. The preserved land was part of the 7,030-acre Virginia Smith Trust parcel that also included the campus’s 2,000 acres. The grant arrangement included creation of the 6,500 acre conservation preserve of sensitive vernal pool habitat and rolling grasslands.

The agreement also triggered 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. An additional gift of $2 million in 2002 by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation supports Reserve staff, management, and operations.