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Coastal Properties or Conservation Easements

Carpinteria Marsh Land Acquisitions

Carpinteria MarshThe Carpinteria Salt Marsh's 230 acres is home to numerous rare and endangered plant and animal species. The salt marsh is one of the few relatively natural estuaries along the Southern California coast and one of the State's most important coastal resources. The County's Local Coastal Plan designates the salt marsh as extremely valuable wetlands habitat.

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County acquired 37 acres of wetlands within the boundaries of the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. These acres are located east of the 115 acres owned by the University of California's Natural Reserve System. Acquisition of the properties allowed for restoration of tidal wetlands and provides for public access to the beachfront portion of the property. Interpretive signs along a trail system explain the importance of coastal wetlands in the protection of wildlife, migratory birds, and fish. The University and the Trust both manage the 152 acres.

Carpinteria Bluffs Acquisition

Carpinteria BluffsThe 52-acre coastal bluff property in Carpinteria is the undeveloped western portion of a larger 157 acres, commonly known as the Carpinteria Bluffs. The property lies between Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean. Portions of the Carpinteria Bluffs are the largest undeveloped coastal open space left between the City of Santa Barbara and the Ventura County line. The bluffs offer sweeping views of the Santa Barbara Channel and the Channel Islands and Santa Ynez Mountains.

The bluffs offer access to the beach below, an overlook, and a California Harbor Seal rookery. The rookery includes a haul-out area where the females bear their pups. This rookery is significant in that it is one of only four along the Southern California coast and is the only one accessible to the public. During the pupping season, volunteers watch around the clock to protect the newborns from human disturbance and to inform viewers about the federally protected seals.

Currently, the bluffs offer opportunities for a variety of passive recreational uses, such as hiking, bird watching, painting, photograph, and picnicking. Soccer and baseball fields may be located along the northern portion of the 52-acre property. But the meadows of native stipa grasslands and coastal sage scrub habitat have been protected with the purchase and have become foraging grounds for such birds as the White-tailed kite, Loggerhead shrike, American kestrel, Red-tailed and Coopers hawks.

Wilcox Property Acquisition

Wilcox PropertyCapitalizing on a $1 million CREF award, the Trust for Public Land, the Small Wilderness Area Preservation and the local community fund-raised an additional $2.6 million to purchase 69 acres of oceanfront blufftop property on the Santa Barbara Mesa above Arroyo Burro Beach. Developers had long sought to develop this site until finally deciding to sell it to the community at the bargain price of $3.6 million, approximately half the appraised value of the property.

Renamed as the Douglas Family Preserve, this coastal open space is owned by the City of Santa Barbara. A Restricting Use recorded with the Grant Deed stipulates the native flora and fauna onsite must be protected and the property must be used for low-intensity uses as an urban wilderness preserve. A quarter of the property contains a rare reproducing grove of coast live oak trees. A vernal pool, coastal sage, native willow, and California sunflower also adorn the property. These habitats allow for the red and gray foxes, the great horned owl, red-tailed hawk, black-shouldered kite, and many other bird species to make the preserve their home. The monarch butterflies annually visit seven acres of butterfly habitat onsite.

Visitors can enjoy a peaceful walk, run, or bike ride along the many trails onsite. Many come to enjoy the panoramic ocean views, sunsets over the ocean, and whale watching. Artists are often seen scattered throughout the preserve painting a wilderness scene. Hang gliders enjoy the thermal currents from the cliffs on a windy day. Public acquisition of this preserve allows for future generations to experience wilderness surroundings within the city.

Arroyo Hondo Ranch Acquisition

Arroyo Hondo RanchSome have called it "little Yosemite." Extending from the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains in the Los Padres National Forest down to the ocean, Rancho Arroyo Hondo's natural resources are extraordinary. Along with the biological resources, the cultural, historical, recreational, and scenic resources of this 782-acre site are unmatched along the central coast. The ecologically pristine condition of most of the property offers a glimpse of what the Gaviota Coast was once like a hundred years ago.

The boundaries of the ranch follow the ridgelines on either side of a canyon, encompassing nearly the entire watershed of Arroyo Hondo Creek. Steelhead trout, red-legged frog, southwestern pond turtles, and the tidewater goby swim in the waters of this perennial creek. Sharp-skinned hawks, four species of owls, and peregrine falcons forage in the meadows and perch on the branches of the many oaks and cottonwoods. Mountain lion, black bear, grey fox, bobcat, and coyote prowl within these canyon walls.

Home to over 525 plant species, the ecological diversity of the Rancho Arroyo Hondo provides a relatively undisturbed blend of habitat communities. Steep canyon walls lined with dramatic sandstone formations, shaded fern grottos, granite ravines, and sweeping ocean views provide the visitor with an unending visual rapture. Rancho Arroyo Hondo is a scenic treasure.

Freeman Ranch Easement

Freeman RanchSix hundred and sixty acres behind Refugio State Beach is forever protected from development under a conservation easement; grassy, oak-dotted slopes rising behind this popular beach will remain as is. The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County raised $990,000 to purchase the easement.

This particular conservation easement allows the Freeman family to keep the land in their family and continue farming on it. Historically this ranch has supported cattle ranching and some hay and grain farming. In return, the easement commits the Freeman family (and future owners) to protect the natural resources onsite, such as a 30-acre oak woodland, one-mile of riparian habitat along Refugio Creek, and a spring-fed vernal pond. A provision in the conservation easement requires the landowner to avoid overgrazing.

The Land Trust uses their first conservation easement on the Gaviota Coast as a model for other landowners to sell easements. The conservation easement demonstrates a voluntary, incentive-based approach that maintains agricultural use while protecting sensitive resources and open space along the Gaviota Coast for perpetuity.

Coronado Acquisition

Coronado Butterfly PreserveThe new Coronado Butterfly Preserve now is the northern gateway into the adjacent site where Monarch butterflies aggregation annually.

The Goleta Union School District deemed nine acres of open space unsuitable for a new school site since it is located under the flight path of the Santa Barbara Airport. So the District sold the land to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County for a discounted price of $600,000.

The Land Trust acquired the nine acres in April of 1999. Two years and many volunteer hours later, the land is adorned with trails, an outdoor classroom, native plants, and interpretative signs focusing on the Monarch butterfly's life cycle, migratory pattern, and overwintering and foraging habitat. The site is an outdoor educational resource for Goleta elementary schools and an urban nature preserve used by the local community and visitors to the butterfly aggregation site and the coastal bluffs.

Burton Mesa Acquisition

Burton MesaLompoc and Vandenberg Village residents now enjoy 6,000 acres of nature preserve. Hikers, joggers, and birders can explore the continuous mosaic habitat of Burton Mesa chaparral, Santa Cruz Island pines, vernal pools, and coastal scrub.

The Burton Mesa area is an elevated terrace of remnant Pleistocene dunes, which are now found only in isolated areas along the California coast. The Burton Mesa terrace resembles coastal backdunes since many of its vegetative species are typically found only along the coast. The most prominent coastal specie in this area is the Burton Mesa chaparral, a type of maritime chaparral. The Burton Mesa site supports the only known occurrence of the Santa Cruz Island Pine on the mainland; this tree is found on the Channel Islands.

The extensive area provides an extraordinary scenic landscape, which is viewed by neighboring communities and travelers on Highway 1.

Point Sal Beach Acquisition

Point Sal BeachConsidered one of the most spectacular and scenic areas on the California coast, Point Sal area's unique geologic formations and remote wind-swept dunes and bluffs provide a dramatic ambiance. It is one of only four public access points to the coast in all of northern Santa Barbara County. The Management Plan for the Point Sal Reserve declares the recreational potential for this area as superb because of its environmental attributes, such as geology, botany, wildlife, and archaeology.

The area's oceanfront location sustains an abundance of wildlife. The mingling of two major ocean currents offshore creates coastal upwelling, which influences the occurrence of various marine birds and marine mammals. The area appears to be the southern limit for the Steller sea lion and northern fur seal and the northern limit for the Guadalupe fur seal and the northern elephant seal. The coastal dune community supports several species of birds, including the rufous-crowned sparrow. This small bird is either uncommon or absent from the rest of coastal Santa Barbara County.

The diverse and rich habitats that sustain the wildlife here include nearshore waters, intertidal, sandy beach, rocky shoreline, stabilized dune scrub, coastal sage scrub, willow riparian, wetland, and non-native woodland. Over 8,000 years ago, these varied habitats and the associated wildlife sustained the Chumash as well; an unusually large number of archaeological sites are found in this area. In a regional context, Point Sal is unsurpassed in terms of its natural and cultural resources.

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