Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A Look at the Benefits of California’s Voter-Created UGB’s: Urban Growth Boundaries


Compiled by Rex Frankel

UGB’s are direct-democracy over urbanization, where voters take direct control of development decisions from politicians to prevent the spread of urban sprawl into farmlands and wildlife areas. Combined with well-funded parks agencies and land trusts, UGB’s have helped to permanently preserve a balance between economic development and environmental and farmland protection, preserving 100’s of thousands of acres of land. Here is (hopefully) a complete list of UGB’s and other forms of direct-democracy-over-developments in California:




Healdsburg (71%), Cotati (71% of the vote), Petaluma (79%), Santa Rosa (59%), Sebastopol (66%), Windsor (72%). The only city without a UGB is Cloverdale:

has saved 19,000 acres since 1976

Since 1992, the District has preserved over 33,000 acres of productive farmland using conservation easements and outright purchase




Since its birth, the organization has permanently preserved over 40,500 acres of farmland that might otherwise have been sold or developed.—buys conservation easements on farmland

winter 2007-2008 newsletter: In 1972, Marin residents set a vision, a course, a new countywide plan with the goal to preserve 26,000 acres. Half of those acres are now protected as Open Space preserves. Another page says 18,000 acres saved or 34 parks totaling 14,675 acres



Ag conversion to urban requires vote of entire county, extended to 2058 in 11/2008 election

City of Napa UGB adopted with 77% yes vote.

We have preserved over 50,000 acres of land

In November of 2006 Napa County voters approved Measure I establishing the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District.


Solano County:

CITIES WITH URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES: Fairfield and Benicia approved in 11/2003. Vacaville city council adopted an UGB in 2008.

Countywide ag conversion to urban requiring vote of public extended to 2028 in 11/2008 election

Since its founding in 1986, Solano Land Trust has permanently protected 19,403 acres of land for the current and future residents of Solano County.



San Mateo County:

Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District,

Owns over 57,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving 60,000 acres as permanent open space and parkland in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.


Santa Clara County:

CITIES WITH URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES: Milpitas (55% yes vote), San Jose, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto.

jurisdiction includes all of SC county except the territory of Mid Peninsula ROSD;

has saved 14,494 acres:



URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES: in the East county and Castro Valley—passed 11/2000

--City of Pleasanton UGB, passed with 75% yes vote.

the East Bay Regional Park District spans more than 98,000 acres in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties,

Contra Costa:

“In 1990, county voters directed the county to adopt an urban limit line that ensured no more than 35% of the county would be developed. The county adopted a loose urban limit line at first, and in 2000 it tightened the boundary by 14,000 acres, angering a number of city officials. Although the urban limit line is a policy of the county and not the cities, the Local Agency Formation Commission largely abided by the county-drawn boundary.”

Voters approved the Contra Costa County Urban Limit Line in November 2006, putting Tassajara Valley off-limits to development.

the Muir Heritage Land Trust has permanently preserved over 2000 acres of natural area in Contra Costa County


Santa Barbara:

City of Santa Barbara—UGB passed by City Council

City of Buellton UGB, passed in 11/2008 by voters


San Luis Obispo County:

Measure M to require a countywide vote to convert agricultural or open space lands outside of existing cities to urban was rejected by voters in 2000.


Santa Cruz County:

has successfully saved over 21,000 acres of redwood forest lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains;

new map:


Ventura County:

UGB’s for all cities and county adopted by voters between 1995 and 2001. UGB’s have not been adopted for the cities of Port Hueneme and Ojai.



An excellent review of growth boundaries in the Central Valley is in this study:

Yolo County:

To date, Yolo Land Trust has helped landowners place conservation easements on almost 7000 acres, permanently protecting their land for future generations.

From County Parks and OS plan: approximately 1,820 acres in the current (2005) inventory.

Agreements between Yolo County and its cities limit new development to areas within the cities' spheres of influence.

12/14/2006 update of Capay valley general plan: A designation of Urban Growth Boundary as a new policy amendment is proposed to be added to the Land Use maps of the new General Plan. Although the 1982 contained a dotted line around the communities of Capay, Guinda, and Rumsey there was nothing explaining its designation.

permanent ugb and os protection study for city of Woodland—expected to reach voters in 11/2005

also see plan at

We have already protected, or partnered to protect, over 2,400 acres of sensitive wildlife habitat and farmland. Measure O is a $24 dollar a year dwelling unit tax which will, at the end of 30 years, have raised $17.5 million dollars for the acquisition of open space within the Davis planning area.

We currently estimate that the city will be able to protect and maintain about 2,200 acres of open space with the proceeds from this tax. Measure O did pass on Nov 7, 2000 with the popular support of the citizens of Davis.


Stanislaus County:

Modesto—UGB approved by city council action

Countywide ag conversion to urban requires vote of public until 2038—OK’d 2/2008


Fresno County:

County planners have pushed restrictions on westward development where the best soils are located.

Tulare County:

In 1974, the eight incorporated cities and the Tulare County Association of Governments adopted the first plan in the Valley to include urban growth boundaries. The plan was amended in 1988. The County plan is also among the only ones in the Valley to explicitly consider the plans of adjoining jurisdictions. (TCGP, Background Report, at 3-72 to 3-75) The County's Rural Valley Lands Plan was one of the first comprehensive farmland preservation plans in the nation, containing an innovative point system for determining when and where development is appropriate. The City of Visalia's general plan includes an innovative set of three concentric growth boundaries pegged to population, thus establishing a standard for average per capita land consumption that could be a model for the Valley. The City of Farmersville won a 2004 Outstanding Planning Award from the American Planning Association for its innovative general plan featuring farmland preservation and smart growth.


Los Angeles County:

L.A. County does not have any UGB’s. As the county is mostly built-out, there are only a few areas facing significant development pressure that are not within an existing city’s limits. Two notable exceptions are the western Santa Clarita Valley which is owned by the currently bankrupt Newhall Land Company, and the Exxon-Mobil owned parcel in the Chino Hills wildlife corridor in the far eastern county.

Leading the charge in preserving land, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and sister agency the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority have helped to preserve over 60,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings linking a ring of preserved lands surrounding the sprawl of L.A. County. See or for more information.


Orange County:

City of San Clemente
11/2008: Voters approved a measure prohibiting rezoning or development of open space lands without voter approval

City of San Juan Capistrano
11/2008: Voters showed their support of open space by approving Measure X, which prohibits any change in designation of open space lands without voter approval


San Diego County:

City of Escondido—vote required for major projects within the existing city boundaries since 1998.

Fish Protection in the Delta Region Could Cut State Aqueduct Supply by 20 to 50%


12/15/2008: State Water Project (SWP) deliveries throughout California could be permanently reduced by up to 50 percent under a new Delta smelt Biological Opinion issued today. Water deliveries to cities, farms and businesses throughout much of the state will be reduced about 20 to 30 percent on average, but cuts could be even greater under certain hydrologic conditions. The opinion, released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will continue reductions in SWP and federal Central Valley Project Delta water exports in effect since a December 2007 federal court order to protect Delta smelt.

to read the new biological opinion from the federal biologists:

Madera County OKs 8,200 homes in the Rio Mesa area

Monday, Dec. 08, 2008, By Chris Collins / The Fresno Bee

excerpted from

Despite concerns about potential negative environmental effects, increased traffic congestion and inadequate school funding, the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved two large developments in southeast Madera County's Rio Mesa area.

Supervisors unanimously OK'd a 3,000-home development that will border the northwest portion of Millerton Lake and also voted 5-0 in favor of a 5,200-home urban center that would be mostly east of Highway 41 and south of Avenue 15.

The approval of the two developments marks a step toward completing a long-planned community in the area that eventually will be home to 100,000 people.

A number of other potential developments in the area are seeking approval.

The Millerton Lake project, which will cover more than 2,100 acres of land, was approved after receiving an endorsement from the Chawanakee Unified School District, which negotiated a last-minute deal with developers that will ensure that $60 million from the project will be committed to building future schools.

But the district was vehemently opposed to the second development, called the Tesoro Viejo project, which will cover 1,600 acres and eventually be home to 13,000 people.

School district consultant Marshall Krupp said the district will need $170 million to build future schools in that community, but will be $100 million short after state funds and developer fees.

The tab will be picked up by current and future residents of the entire school district, he said

"In essence, this developer is burdening this project on the backs of others," Krupp said...

558 Acres are Saved on the American River

12/20/2008, excerpted from:

Two miles of frontage on the north fork of the American River and 558 acres of forest between the Auburn and Folsom Lake state recreation areas will be protected from development forever under a deal that closed this week.

The American River Conservancy purchased a conservation easement for the land, part of the historic Garland Ranch in El Dorado County, conservancy director Alan Ehrgott said.

The land is due east of the river, across the canyon from Auburn and immediately downstream from the old Auburn dam site.

Ehrgott called the deal a major step toward the dream of a 16-mile trail corridor around the east side of Folsom Lake that would connect with the south fork of the American...

The American River Conservancy is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. It has completed 71 conservation projects protecting over 10,600 acres of native fisheries, endangered species habitat and recreational lands. The Conservancy also provides interpretive hikes, educational programs to schools and volunteer opportunities to the greater Sacramento Metropolitan region. The American River Conservancy operates the American River Nature Center which is located at 348 Highway 49, Coloma, California. It can be reached at (530) 621-1224 or at

The Committee for Green Foothills Year End Report

Looking back at 2008, Committee for Green Foothills’ local, vocal and effective efforts resulted in:

· Helping successful efforts to stop logging in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

· A well crafted Stewardship Plan for Camp Jones Gulch in San Mateo County.

· Significant contributions to Santa Clara County Habitat Conservation Plan.

· Conducting an educational Farm Tour of South Santa Clara County ranches and farms.

· Working with local citizens to start a “South Valley Environmental Collaborative”.

· Partnering with locals and winning a lawsuit to enforce creek protection in Los Gatos.

· Assisting San Mateo County’s efforts to develop a Watershed Ordinance.

· Providing oversight on Stanford’s developments, and the Habitat Conservation and Sustainable
Development Plans.

Deal Reached to Save El Cajon Mountain in San Diego

12/2008 news from

As an update to the last enews, we have finalized the agreement with the owners of 385 acres at the top of El Cajon Mountain. Fantastic news.

Many of our readers like to support conservation of important wildlife areas. Here is a wonderful opportunity!

If you are considering a year-end donation, how about to our land acquisition fund? $5000 is needed immediately to open the escrow account for this acquisition. Donations of all amounts are appreciated. Contact Rob Hutsel, SDRPF Executive Director for more information at 619-297-7380.

online donation link:

ECOSLO Granted Request to Intervene in Carrizo Energy Solar Farm Power Plant Licensing Case

12/15/2008 from

ECOSLO's request to intervene in the licensing case for the Carrizo Energy Solar Farm Power Plant was granted by the California Energy Commission (CEC) on November 24. ECOSLO sought to intervene in this precedent setting case out of concern for the project's potential to harm sensitive wildlife species and plant communities through habitat degradation, fragmentation and interference with wildlife movement. ECOSLO is particularly concerned about this project's potential biological impacts because it is to be located in an area that contains a very high concentration of sensitive and protected wildlife species. ECOSLO is also concerned about the project's potential groundwater, air quality, and land use.

We believe in the necessity for the rapid development of renewable energy; we also believe that we need to carefully evaluate the appropriateness of the proposed sites for industrial facilities such as this power plant. By fully participating in this siting process, ECOSLO will voice local concerns to ensure that the CEC strikes an appropriate balance between conservation of sensitive resources and promotion of renewable energy. ECOSLO is represented by local attorney, Babak Naficy.

Santa Margarita Ranch Board of Supervisors Hearing
December 16th

On November 18th, the board of supervisors voted to approve the Santa Margarita Ranch development proposal (3 to 2). On December 16th, the issue will come up again for the final vote. The proposed project has 11 class 1 impacts; impacts that cannot be avoided or mitigated. This is a precedent setting case in regards to future development in the County. Please Cilck here to read the staff report:
The Santa Margarita Ranch is the last item on the agenda for the 16th. Please consider attending the meeting or e-mailing the board with your thoughts on this important issue.
Help Save the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony in the Sierra Foothills

12/17/2008: The Florin and Placer chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the Fukushima Kenjin Kai, the California State Department of Parks and Recreation, and the American River Conservancy have formed a working partnership which seeks to acquire the historic 303 acre Veerkamp property at Gold Hill, a rural area between Placerville and Coloma in western El Dorado County.

for full story:


Humboldt Timber Trasher Spends $40 Million to Win $10 Million from the Taxpayers


excerpted from:

After a bitter 13-year legal battle, Maxxam Inc. has finally put down its arms and agreed to accept a $10 million settlement to end a bitter dispute with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which at one time was ordered to pay $72.3 million in sanctions to Maxxam.

Charles Hurwitz, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Houston-based Maxxam, says one of his lawyers told him it's the largest-ever settlement with a government agency. The settlement certainly was a long time coming, he says, because it has been 20 years since the savings-and-loan failure that was the subject of the litigation...

...Hurwitz says he agreed to accept the FDIC payment to end the long-running litigation because "I'm kind of tired of paying lawyers. It kind of got to a price where we just said OK."

Maxxam spent at least $40 million on the litigation, says Joli Pecht, an assistant general counsel at Maxxam who adds "we've all gotten old and gray" over the course of the legal battle that began in 1995 with Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Charles E. Hurwitz, et al.

In that suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the FDIC attempted to force Hurwitz to reimburse the federal government for money lost in the $1.6 billion bailout of United Savings Association of Texas, which failed in 1988....


more on how the Pacific Lumber bankruptcy is changing Humboldt County:

Protect a Biodiversity Hotspot From Reckless Roadbuilding

12/29/2008--A biodiversity hotspot in Southern California is threatened by a super-sized freeway project in western Riverside County. The Center for Biological Diversity needs your help to protect the homes of imperiled wildlife, fight sprawl and global warming, and improve air quality.

The Deadline for Letters is January 8, 2009

Threatening a Biodiversity Hotspot
The new four- to eight-lane highway, misnamed the Mid County "Parkway," will devastate habitat areas for a variety of threatened plants and animals. From the tiny and endangered Stephens kangaroo rat to the majestic mountain lion, the highway would sever important habitat linkages that are essential for wildlife to roam.

Worsening Sprawl in Open Space
The massive highway will enable more sprawling growth, turning open space into large-scale subdivisions, industrial warehouses, and big-box stores. It will funnel more traffic onto the already gridlocked 91 freeway. Worse yet, the Mid County Parkway will be a stepping stone for a highway tunnel through the oak-covered valleys of the Santa Ana mountains in the Cleveland National Forest.

for full alert:

To see the County's website:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bush Administration Rejects Orange County/San Diego Border Toll Road Agency Appeal!

Dear Friend of the Coast,

We did it!!!

After ten years of fighting the Transportation Corridor Agencies' (TCA) proposal to construct a 16-mile toll road at San Onofre State Beach, we can now celebrate a tremendous environmental victory. As it turns out, even the Bush administation's Commerce Department does not buy the TCA's empty arguments supporting the toll road; evidently, nobody besides the TCA believes the proposed road is vital to national security and the only viable transportation alternative.
I would like to take this opportunity and thank you all for years of the hard work, the commitment and the belief necessary for an organized community passionate about its environment to defeat an agency willing to spend such inordinate amounts of money to get what they want. This time, because of you, we can celebrate a victory for San Onofre State Park--a Californian jewel.

Unless the TCA keeps flailing for any rationale supporting their toll road and finds someone besides themselves supporting their proposal, this rejection from the Bush Administration seems to be the final blow to TCA's scheme to replace San Onofre State Beach with a toll road. Congratulations!!

Click here to read the Los Angeles Times article!
Click here to read the Orange County Register's article!
To read the Commerce Department's report (NOTE--LARGE FILE) :

The Sierra Club thanks our partners in the Save the San Onofre Coalition and Save Panhe Coalition whose help was invaluable in achieving this victory. California State Parks Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, NRDC, Endangered Habitats League, Audubon Society, Wildcoast, and so many more organizations and individuals who worked together to help ensure the San Mateo Campground, Trestles Beach and the San Mateo Watershed remain pristine for future generations to enjoy.

In solidarity, and with immense gratitude,

Mark Massara, Sierra Club Coastal Program

U.S. Commerce Department rejects Foothill South toll road
L.A. Times, 10:03 AM, December 18, 2008

The controversial Foothill South toll road, proposed to connect south Orange County with north San Diego County, was handed a major blow this morning when the U.S. Commerce Department announced it would uphold the state Coastal Commission's rejection of the plan.
Federal officials could only override the state's decision if the project had no alternatives or was necessary to national security, and the announcement this morning said neither of those criteria was met.

Today's decision is another -- and perhaps fatal -- setback for the proposed 16-mile turnpike, which had been blasted by environmentalists for cutting through a popular beachfront state park and lauded by transportation planners as vital to easing the region's gridlock.
The California Coastal Commission rejected plans for the road earlier this year, saying that the six-lane road -- which would run from Rancho Santa Margarita to Basilone Road at Camp Pendleton -- violated the state's coastal management program.

The toll road agency backing the plan "may pursue another route" consistent with coastal zone protections, according to the Commerce Department announcement. Since 1972, the department has ruled on 43 such appeals of state coastal zone decisions, overriding 14.
-- Susannah Rosenblatt

Department of Commerce Rules on Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency Consistency Appeal
December 18, 2008

The Department of Commerce today upheld the California Coastal Commission’s objection to a proposal to construct a 16-mile toll road connecting California state Route 241 to Interstate 5 in southern Orange and northern San Diego counties.The commission objected to the proposed project under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act on the grounds that the toll road was not consistent with the state’s coastal zone management program. Under the CZMA, federal agencies may not issue any permits required for a project if a state has objected, unless the Department of Commerce, on appeal, overrides the objection.

The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency appealed the commission’s objection to the Department of Commerce in February, triggering an administrative review process that involved written briefs and arguments by the parties, input from interested federal agencies, tens of thousands of written comments from the public, and a 10-hour public hearing in San Diego County.

Under the CZMA, the department may override an objection only if no reasonable alternative to the project exists and the proposal is consistent with the objectives of the CZMA, or if the project is necessary in the interest of national security. The department determined that there is at least one reasonable alternative to the project. The department also found that the project is not necessary in the interest of national security.

TCA may pursue another route for its proposed toll road that the commission determines is consistent with California’s coastal zone management program, and TCA is not limited to the alternative proposal described in the department’s decision.

Since the enactment of the CZMA in 1972, the department has acted on 43 appeals, upholding 29 objections by state agencies and overriding 14.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Superior Court Kills Las Lomas Development on L.A. Wildlife Pinchpoint

(click on map to enlarge)

Is the Las Lomas development 'finally dead'?
December 16, 2008, L.A. Times

By Jennifer Oldham,0,6500693.story

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has declined to order the city to reopen its environmental review of a controversial 5,553-home development proposed for steep hillsides near where Interstate 5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway intersect. Judge David P. Yaffe ruled that state law doesn’t require the City Council to finish preparing environmental studies before considering a proposal by developer Dan Palmer to build a mixed-use community known as Las Lomas. Yaffe’s ruling, issued Friday, led City Councilman Greig Smith — who headed an effort to dismiss the city’s review of the 555-acre project — to declare that “after six years of fighting this ill-conceived project, it appears to be finally dead.” The council voted 10 to 5 in March to instruct the Planning Department to stop processing the application to build the project, which would have included more than 2 million square feet in commercial space. Palmer sued the city last summer, claiming the decision violated state law and the developer’s constitutional right to due process. The complaint asked the court to order the city to finish complex environmental studies and to award it $100 million in damages. Council members feared that the development -- under which Palmer proposed that Los Angeles annex the 555-acre parcel so he could access the city’s water supply -- would tax already overburdened services and further snarl traffic.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Spectacular 1,440-Acre Childs Meadow Supports Wildlife and Ranching

Tehama County—With its purchase of Childs Meadow in September 2007, a 1,440-acre mix of creeks, springs, mountain meadows and conifer forests south of Lassen Volcanic National Park-- The Nature Conservancy is protecting the region’s delicate ecology and its rural economy. Rare bird species such as willow flycatchers, yellow warblers and greater sandhill cranes depend on the riparian habitat that winds through the property. A threatened population of spring-run salmon downstream relies on those cold creek waters for its survival. Childs Meadow has supported local grazing operations for more than 100 years—a tradition that will continue under
Conservancy ownership through a lease with a local rancher.
Feds Complete 8881 Acre Purchase to Finish 20,000 Acre Coachella Valley Preserve

For Release: September 25, 2008
Contact: David Briery (951) 697-5220; e-mail

BLM Completes Land Acquisition To Protect Ecosystem

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently completed the last of a series of land acquisitions in the Palm Springs area designed to protect the sand dunes ecosystem critical to the survival of the threatened Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard and other native species, the BLM's California Desert District announced today. BLM Desert District Manager Steve Borchard said the purchased land, on the southwest side of Joshua Tree National Park adjacent to the existing Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Preserve, had previously been proposed for a large residential and commercial development. "We were able to take advantage of federal legislation that allows us to use funds from sales of unneeded public lands to purchase lands like these adjacent to specially designated areas," he explained. "With those funds, and the efforts of a strong partnership of other government and private partners, a long-term conservation vision for the Coachella Valley has finally become a reality." The purchased land is important for maintaining the vitality of a system of wind-blown sand dunes -- the only habitat for fringe-toed lizards. The acquisitions also provide an important linkage for bobcat, kit fox, and desert bighorn sheep to move between the national park and the Coachella Valley Preserve. Borchard explained that the BLM purchase was just part of a total acquisition of 8,881 acres (about 14 square miles) near Palm Springs, Calif., that was made possible through the partnership of a number of organizations. "In particular, it was through the efforts and generosity of the nonprofit Friends of the Desert Mountains," says Borchard, "that BLM was able to purchase the final 621 acres for the Coachella Valley Preserve at a considerable discount." The acquisition came in response to a proposal in 2001 to build 12 golf courses, three hotels, two country clubs, a university, numerous retail shops and restaurants, as well as 7,000 homes, on a portion of the land. BLM Wildlife Biologist Larry LaPre points out that the development would have interrupted the essential flow of sand for the dune system that serves as the habitat for the fringe-toed lizard. "The acquired property," LaPre explained, "contains the Little San Bernardino Mountains fluvial sand transport system. The transport system begins high in the nearby mountains where flash floods break down boulders into rocks. Continuing downstream, flash floods break rocks into pebbles, and finally pebbles into sand -- all within just a few miles. "This area," continued LaPre, "is core habitat for a number of species, including the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, the Palm Springs pocket mouse, the Coachella Valley milkvetch, the Coachella Valley giant sand-treader cricket, and the Coachella Valley round-tailed ground squirrel. In addition to the disruption of the sand transport system, fertilizers from golf courses and urban runoff would have entered the preserve, resulting in a fertile environment for weeds, sand dunes that no longer shifted with the wind, and loss of habitat for dune-dependent species." Within a year of the 2001 announcement of the plans for the large residential and commercial development, The Nature Conservancy and Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy began negotiations to purchase the property, according to Bill Havert, executive director of Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. "By May of 2003," Havert says, "the developer agreed to a $26 million purchase price for land valued at $40 million. The developer would make up the loss through tax deductions. Then came the challenge of finding the money. The Mountains Conservancy took the lead and rounded up $23 million in funds from local ($4 million), state ($16.5 million), and non-profit ($2.5 million) sources. That left a $3 million shortfall jeopardizing this critical acquisition. "The Conservancy approached BLM, which said it would do whatever it took to work with the rest of the partners to make it happen, but they didn't have immediate funds available. On the strength of BLM's commitment, however, the Friends of the Desert Mountains, a local non-profit organization, borrowed the remaining $3 million needed from the city of Palm Desert to allow the land to be purchased, with the knowledge that BLM would buy that land from the Friends so it could repay the loan." According to Borchard, BLM was able to use funds available through both the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) to complete the purchases and fulfill its commitments. "This addition to the Coachella Valley Preserve" says Borchard, "is great news for preserving the last five percent of what was originally 100 square miles of wind-blown sand dunes. The acquisition has many heroes – and will remain a superb example of what partnerships can accomplish." Borchard also noted that the allocation of FLTFA funds to complete these acquisitions was supported by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. "Together, we've made a big step in preserving an ecosystem." The Coachella Valley Preserve is jointly managed by the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, California State Parks, and the Center for Natural Lands Management. The Coachella Valley Preserve Visitor Center, 29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road, Thousand Palms, Calif., is open year-round except for July and August.


The Coachella Valley Preserve is located on the trace of the San Andreas Fault between the towns of Palm Springs and Indio, California. The main groves of the preserve are called the Thousand Palms Oasis. A visitor center is located in the Paul Wilhelm Grove along Thousand Palms Canyon Road. Springs rising along the Mission Canyon Fault and Banning Fault (parallel strands of the San Andreas Fault System). The springs are host to Desert Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera). The preserve began with the purchase of 1,920 acres of the proposed site by the California Nature Conservancy. It was expanded by the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and is now owned by the Nature Conservancy. The preserve now encompasses 17,000 acres, protecting three separate desert dune fields and six palm forests (over 1,500 palms). It is part of a 20,000 acres dedicated to protect the habitat of the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard and other species. The preserve covers a large portion of the Indio Hills in the valley west of Joshua Tree National Park.


Pumping up SLO's Montana de Oro: Plan would grow state park by 65 percent


Plan nears reality to add 5,500 acres and build trail from Los Osos to Avila Beach.

A proposal to add several small parcels and three large properties — the Andre parcel, the Hibberd Preserve and the Avila Ranch — could add some 5,500 acres to Montaña de Oro State Park.

By David Sneed

State Parks is working with three conservation groups to finalize a series of land acquisitions that would add about 5,500 acres to Montaña de Oro State Park and allow the construction of a 20-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail, linking Los Osos with Avila Beach. The additions would come in the form of three large parcels and 10 smaller ones scattered throughout the Irish Hills, a rugged mountain range west of San Luis Obispo. If successful, the acquisition effort would cause Montaña de Oro to grow by about 65 percent, for a total of about 14,000 acres.

“That would be a very substantial addition and would make Montaña de Oro one of the largest state parks,” said Nick Franco, the department’s superintendent of the San Luis Obispo County district.

The planned acquisitions involve property that stretches about five and a half miles north and west from Avila Beach. They are:

• The 2,400-acre Avila Ranch centered on Wild Cherry Canyon between Avila Beach and Port San Luis. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. owns the property, but the utility leased the development rights on the land for 198 years. About 160 years remain on the lease, and the deal would involve purchasing those leases for $24 million.

• The 1,500-acre Hibberd Preserve owned by the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County. The group is willing to donate the land to State Parks.

• A parcel of 730 acres owned by the Andre family, which would be purchased for $1.825 million. The family has also agreed to place a conservation easement on other property in the area.

• Ten parcels that make up 1,279 acres owned by The Nature Conservancy, which would be purchased for $3.842 million.

The first test of the acquisition plan will come Friday, when the state Public Works Board will meet in the State Capitol at 10 a. m. to consider spending nearly $5.7 million to purchase the Andre and Nature Conservancy properties.

The money for these two purchases would come from a state account of $13 million earmarked specifically for land acquisitions in the Irish Hills, said David Wrightsman, Irish Hills project manager with State Parks.

This money was allocated as part of Proposition 12, the voter- approved Parks Bond Act of 2000.

This leaves about $7 million available for the second round of purchases, most notably the Avila Ranch leases.

The American Land Conservancy could make up the remainder of the $24 million purchase price from other state sources as well as a private fundraising effort currently under way.

The state Coastal Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Board, Caltrans and other state agencies are interested in participating in the Irish Hills project, Wrightsman said.

He expects to take his funding requests to these agencies later this year.

“Altogether we should have the money we need to make the entire purchase,” he said. “If any coastal land deserves protection, this is it.”

Kara Blakeslee agrees that there is enough public and private money available to complete the deal. She is the Avila Ranch project manager with the American Land Conservancy.

While the competition for conservation dollars is fierce, she thinks the Irish Hills project is a rare opportunity to protect coastal lands.

She has already lined up funding from the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments and the state Transportation Commission and a donation of $150,000 from the Hind Foundation.

“I’m pretty confident we can do it,” she said. “The opportunity to make all of this work is here and now.”

Blakeslee is the wife of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, RSan Luis Obispo, and a former employee of American Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy. Now a financial planner in San Luis Obispo, she is volunteering one day a week to work on the Avila Ranch project.

This is not the first time conservationists have tried to purchase the development rights to the Avila Ranch, also known as the Leucadia Ranch.

A previous attempt by The Nature Conservancy to buy the rights from Nipomo developer Denis Sullivan and two partners collapsed in 2003.

Neither The Nature Conservancy nor Sullivan would comment on the current preservation effort.

The least-complicated piece of this conservation puzzle is the Hibberd Preserve. It has been owned by the Land Conservancy since 1999. The group is donating the parcel but is looking for a donation of $50,000 to $80,000 to defray its costs.

“It’s really always been our intention and understanding that it would become part of the state park,” said Bob Hill, the group’s conservation director. “We’re looking make a gift to the state, but we’d like to recover some of the property taxes and other expenses we’ve incurred over the years.”

If the current effort is successful, the deals could be finalized by the end of the year and the property transferred to State Parks by springtime, Franco said. He envisions open-space preservation; hiking and low-impact camping would be the main uses of the new parkland.

Much of the land is interlaced with trails for off-road vehicles and dirt roads that are ready-made for hiking.

A 20-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail linking the back country of Montaña de Oro with Avila Beach would be laid out and constructed later, Franco said.

The lower elevation of the property is rolling oak woodlands, while the upper elevations are more rugged and covered with chaparral. The highest point is a peak called Bald Knob at 1,286 feet.

Anytime property is added to State Parks, a question can arise of whether the department can afford to manage and maintain the new land.

For example, Harmony Headlands State Park near Harmony has not opened to the public since its acquisition in 2003 because the department does not have the $1 million it needs to create a parking lot and other needed amenities.

It would be much easier to open the new Montaña de Oro lands, Franco said. The property already has a ready-made trail system.

“We would have to create a staging area without opening the park to cars, but those are not high-cost items,” Franco said.

Another possibility would be to charge a day-use fee to enter the new parkland.

The state Legislature prefers that parks pay for themselves with fees, but a decision like that would be made only after the property is acquired.



Department of General Services

Department of Parks and Recreation

Irish Hills-Montana de Oro

San Luis Obispo County

Action requested

The requested action will authorize acquisition.

Scope Description

This project is within scope. This project authorizes the acquisition of approximately 5,909 acres as an addition to Montana de Oro State Park and would provide trail connectivity from the park to Avila Beach. This requested action will authorize acquisition of 2,009.2 acres of land (12 legal parcels) that are owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Andre family, and is the first of a two phase acquisition. The second phase, consisting of two parcels, the Hibberd Preserve (1,500 acres) and the Avila Ranch (2,400 acres), will come before the Board for site selection in the near future. Once all the acquisitions have been completed, DPR will be able to fulfill its plans for the development of a coastal trail from Montana de Oro State Park to the town of Avila, as well as the preservation of rare and precious undisturbed coastal lands in San Luis Obispo County.

This project will fulfill five of seven DPR’s acquisition guidelines by providing for expanded outdoor recreation opportunities, significant cultural resources properties, cultural landscapes, in-holdings and adjacent properties, and trail connections and corridor acquisitions. Once acquired, a hiking trail will traverse the properties being acquired in the Irish Hills, as well as trail linkages through existing public lands (BLM). While some of the parcels are not directly contiguous with Montana de Oro State Park, once all acquisitions are completed and the necessary easements obtained, the public will be able to hike from Montana de Oro State Park to the town of Avila and the ocean.

Funding and Cost Verification

This project is within cost. The total cost of the project, for both acquisition phases, is estimated to be $13,000,000 (not including the additional $17,825,000 in non-state funding to be used for the second phase). A total of $13,000,000 from the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Coastal Protection Bond Fund (Proposition 12) for the purchase of parcels located within the Irish Hills near Montana de Oro State Park is available, of which $5,787,000 will be used for the first acquisition phase (see below), in accordance with legislative intent. The remainder of the appropriation will be used, in combination with other public and private funding to fund the second acquisition phase.

$13,000,000 total authorized project costs

$13,000,000 total estimated project costs

$ 60,000 project costs previously allocated: DGS staff costs

$12,940,000 project costs to be allocated: $5,727,000 for the first acquisition phase and $7,213,000 for the second acquisition phase.


A Notice of Exemption was filed with the State Clearinghouse on April 10, 2008. The 35‑day litigation period expired on May 15, 2008.

Project Schedule

The anticipated close of escrow is August 2008.

Condition of Property

In April 2008, the Department of General Services (DGS) - Environmental Services Section personnel conducted a Condition of Property visit of the above properties in San Luis Obispo County. The properties are approximately 2,009.2 acres in size and are characterized as steeply-sloped coastal chaparral. The only improvements are an unoccupied cedar and shake home, two small wells, a small unoccupied cabin, and a small storage shed. The cedar and shake home is situated on the former Basseri property and appears to be in good condition. One of the wells is not operational. No hazards or environmental conditions were observed. A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), dated November 15, 2007, was provided to DGS/ESS personnel and indicated that no recognized environmental conditions were found.


The Board approved these properties for site selection at the June 13, 2008, and July 11, 2008, meetings.

Legal access for six of the parcels is via See Canyon Road, a county road.

Two of the parcels do not have legal access. DPR believes it possible that these two parcels may have historical access since they were originally acquired from the Federal Government pursuant to the Homestead Act, which requires occupation of the property as a condition of the Homestead Act grant, and further implies access as to facilitate the qualifying occupation. DPR will continue to research whether access actually exists. In the future event that the two land-locked parcels become desirable for trail development DPR will pursue access easements through neighboring BLM property. Although neither of these parcels would be in the intended trail rights-of-way, their purchase is necessary due to the “all or nothing” nature of these transactions.

The properties identified as Number 1 and 1A (Andre Properties) on the attached map consist of 730.2 acres, and are critical for trail development, viewshed preservation, and access to the other parcels being acquired. The larger of the two properties, Number 1 (530.2 acres) provides public access via See Canyon Road, and also will serve as a staging area/trailhead that would allow for immediate public recreational use. The Andre properties have an appraised value of $1,825,000 and are currently under an option agreement that expires in September 2008.

The ten parcels identified as Number 2 on the attached map (TNC) total 1,279 acres, and have an appraised value of $3,842,000. These will also be used for trail development and viewshed protection.

The proposed future Phase 2 acquisitions indicated (Number 3) on the attachment will provide a gateway to the town of Avila and fulfill the DPR’s vision at Irish Hill. These two parcels, the Hibberd Preserve and the Avila Ranch, consist of 1,500 acres and 2,400 acres, respectively.

Once all parcels have been acquired they will serve as plottage to each other, thus providing legal access to all parcels except the two previously discussed land-locked parcels.

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been approached to obtain public trail easements across its properties . BLM has delivered a letter endorsing DPR’s potential acquisition as an addition to Montana de Oro State Park and has also indicated a willingness to work with DPR in evaluating whether BLM land could contribute towards the coastal trail project.

PG&E has also been contacted in regard to obtaining a trail easement on their land, if needed. PG&E recently open to the public a hiking trail over a portion of the buffer lands surrounding Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant on June 28, 2008 as a condition of receiving a permit for building a storage facility for used reactor fuel. This newly open hiking trail commences at Montana de Oro State Parks and winds through the power plant buffer area to Crowbar Canyon and the Point Buchon Trail.

The purchase price will not exceed the estimated fair market value as determined by an appraisal reviewed by DGS.

There is no relocation assistance involved with this project.

There is no implied dedication.

The DPR is not aware of any lawsuits pending on the property. The Property Acquisition Agreement (PAA) requires delivery of title to the property free and clear of any mortgages or liens.

Any changes to public access, use, development, resources, or habitat protection will be addressed through the normal budget process.

DPR will at a later date determine the status of the small cabin located on the property. For the time being it will remain on the property and left unoccupied. The cedar and shake home will either serve as a DPR regional office and/or possible ranger housing.

The PAA does not include the state’s standard indemnification language, potentially exposing the state to additional fiscal liability; however, neither the Environmental Impact Report nor the physical site visit by ESS staff identified any adverse conditions that would likely pose an exceptional risk to the state. Further, given the fact that the property is largely unimproved natural habitat, the risk associated with acquiring these properties without the standard indemnification is low. It should be noted that the lack of indemnification language does not relieve the Seller of liability under existing law.

DPR has indicated that the interim operation of both phases of the Irish Hills acquisitions can be accomplished with existing staff and equipment. Any future staffing, operations, and maintenance costs of the final completed Irish Hills project development will be considered through the normal budget process.

DPR currently anticipates opening the properties to public use in January 2010.

Staff Recommendation: Authorize acquisition.

11,000 acres of Conservation Easements are in the Works in Santa Barbara County

Five new Land Trust conservation easement projects will conserve 11,000 acres in Santa Barbara County, dedicating some of our most beautiful ranch and farm land permanently to natural and agricultural use. Conservation agreements with private landowners will protect high priority wildlife corridors, watersheds and scenic resources on private ranches and farms, including regionally rare Blue and Valley oak woodland, with creeks and ponds that sustain rare and endangered plants and animals.Under conservation easements granted in perpetuity to the Land Trust, present and future owners are bound to guard the scenic beauty, wildlife resources and agricultural value of the Gaviota Coast, Figueroa Mountain, Carpinteria foothills and historic ranch land in the Los Alamos Valley.

--2860 acre Midlands School conservation easement: Founded in 1932, Midland School is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for grades 9-12. The mission of Midland is to teach the value of a lifetime of learning, self-reliance, simplicity, responsibility to community and the environment, and love for the outdoors. The modest campus sits on a magnificent 2,860-acre property bordered by the 5,896-acre Sedgwick Reserve (a Land Trust project that is now part of the University of California Natural Reserve System), the Los Padres National Forest and two private cattle ranches. The Land Trust and TPL are working together to raise $4.6 million for the land project.

--2550 acre Rancho Arbolado conservation easement: The long-time family owners of Rancho Arbolado, a 2,550 acre cattle ranch just north of Gaviota State Park, are looking to the Land Trust to purchase a conservation easement as part of their planning to pass the property on to the next generation. This mostly undeveloped ranch features dense oak woodlands and riparian habitat in the western fork of Gaviota Creek. The project would add to the 7,500 acres of open land already conserved on the Gaviota Coast by the Land Trust and its partners. The easement would limit development on the property to home sites for ranch owners and their employees, and agricultural improvements. It would provide a permanent natural buffer on the north side of Gaviota State Park, and would secure the scenic beauty along Highway 1, a state-designated scenic highway.

--5200 acre conservation easement in Las Flores and Careaga Creeks: The Land Trust is working with three owners of adjacent ranches to create a conservation easement that could protect 5,200 acres of open rangeland, farmland, oak woodland and the watershed of Las Flores and Careaga Creeks. These ranches stretch from the Solomon Hills just south of Orcutt, to Highway 135 and San Antonio Creek near Vandenberg Air Force Base. The conservation easement terms would protect an important wildlife corridor between inland habitat of the San Rafael Mountains and the rich coastal lands of western Santa Barbara County. These properties are one of the few watersheds in the area that have not been converted from rangeland to vineyards.

--533 acre Rancho el Jabali conservation easement: The Sanford's original home and vineyard on Santa Rosa Road, called Rancho el Jabalí (wild boar), shows their desire to maintain harmony between farming and nature. Extending from the Santa Ynez River to the peaks of the Santa Rosa Hills, Rancho el Jabalí provides a valuable wildlife linkage to the Gaviota Creek Watershed south of those peaks. Over 250 acres of oak blue and coast live oak woodland on the ranch have been kept protected, with no agricultural use, for 24 years. Eagles and Peregrine falcons nest in rocky outcrops atop the watershed.

--23 acre David Anderson ranch: The ranch is owned by David H. Anderson - a founder, long-time board member and current general counsel of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, who has been a leader in voluntary land conservation locally and nationally for over two decades. In 2007, David Anderson and his family took their commitment to protecting open land to another level, by donating a conservation easement on the 23-acre avocado ranch they own in the foothills of Carpinteria.


Eastern Sierra Land Trust: Lots of Local “Victories”


There have been lots of local “victories” for the Eastern Sierra Land Trust, and most recently the innovative non-profit organization secured a couple of conservation “landmarks.”

Adding to its list of accomplishments are the beautiful ranching and grazing lands of Bill Bramlette, a fourth generation landowner near Benton Hot Springs. The 900-acre ranch is now in a permanent conservation easement, forever keeping those grand landscape values protected. Bramlette will continue ranching, just like his family has for decades.

Along with the Bramlette success story are two properties in the Mono Basin. The Yednock and Crystol properties are now a part of the permanently gorgeous landscapes surrounding Mono Lake. The Yednock property (480 acres) was a real challenge, as it had really been let go for a long time, and once the 20 vehicles and other debris were removed-the property looks like a place where people will find wildlife habitat. The Crystol land (80 acres) was “purchased by the Wilderness Land Trust and donated to the BLM to be managed for the protection of its natural resources including undisturbed alkali dune scrub and scattered pine trees,” according to the ESLT’s Spring newsletter.

Total land recently put in trust for our collective heritage and enjoyment= 1,460 acres.


ESLT has been gaining momentum since its inception about seven years ago.

Crowley Hilltop Preserve — 33 Acres

Benton Hot Springs Valley Conservation Easement — 900 Acres

Yednock Conservation Easement — 480 acres

Cedar Hills Conservation Project— 3,748 acres

Montgomery Creek Ranch Conservation Easement — 818 acres

Big Hot Springs Ranch Conservation Easement — 75 acres

Lowery Conservation Easement — 37 acres

McAfee Conservation Easements — 15 acres

Ingram Conservation Easement — 20 acres


Map below shows Crowley Hilltop Preserve

Save the Redwoods League

Thanks to our community of more than 21,000 members, Save the Redwoods League has saved these redwood forests and the landscapes that support them.

  • We transferred to Butano State Park 100 acres containing ancient coast redwoods and potential nesting sites for the threatened marbled murrelet, a seabird that relies on ancient trees. This acquisition also expands protection for critical watersheds and will increase the park's recreational opportunities along the Butano Fire Road, a trail often used by hikers that bisects the northern portion of the park.
  • Our purchase of 39 acres upslope of the scenic Freshwater Lagoon in Humboldt County increases watershed protection for the lagoon and adds second-growth redwood forest to Humboldt Lagoons State Park.
  • Old and young redwoods, grassy bluffs and more than 1½ miles of stunning Pacific Ocean coastline are highlights of a 401-acre Mendocino County property Save the Redwoods League has acquired. In a new type of partnership, the Coastal Land Trust is caring for the land, while Save the Redwoods is exploring exciting new alternatives for long-term stewardship that include California State Parks and other partners to ensure the public can enjoy this inspiring place.
  • We protected 113 acres of land adjacent to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park containing some of the last remaining unprotected ancient redwoods in Napa County. In the face of global climate change, redwoods in this region are important to preserve because they may hold the key to species' survival, having developed in a relatively dry, warm environment. Of the total 113-acre project area, Save the Redwoods League acquired 51 acres for future transfer to the park. We acquired a land preservation agreement on 62 of the acres and transferred it to The Land Trust of Napa County, a new Save the Redwoods partner, for permanent monitoring.
  • League land preservation agreements in Del Norte County on industrial timberland now protect some of the best remaining privately owned old-growth forest habitat for marbled murrelets in northern California. The murrelets, a species of seabird, need ancient trees' large branches for nest platforms. There are two agreements: one covers 650 acres, including 142 acres of old-growth forest buffered by 508 acres of younger forest; the other covers 298 acres, with more than 77 acres of old-growth forest buffered by 220 acres of younger forest.

  • New Property Makes Way for Access to Giant Sequoias Our members’ support enabled us to recently transfer to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks an 11-acre parcel that will allow the National Park Service to improve public access via the historic Colony Mill Road. The Colony Mill Road connects to a network of trails through the park leading to the Giant Forest. The Giant Forest is home to the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree. The property also is important because it contains blue oak woodlands, an increasingly threatened habitat in California.


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rexfrankel at

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