The Land Trust has planned, funded and completed nearly a dozen habitat restoration projects, where improving conditions for one or more native species positively impacts the entire ecosystem. Some of the land we work to preserve (like the Carpinteria Salt Marsh) has been disturbed and degraded over time, often unintentionally as part of local land use and development. Partnering with landowners, public agencies, foundations and local restoration specialists, Land Trust has expanded and enhanced coastal wetlands and creeks, reduced erosion, controlled invasive weeds and planted tens of thousands of native trees, shrubs and grasses. Our projects range from small, volunteer-based work days at Coronado Butterfly Preserve or Arroyo Hondo, to a $2.4 million major overhaul of 35 acres in the West Goleta Slough. Read about some of the habitat restoration projects:
With grants awarded by the Goleta Valley Land Trust, the John S. Kiewit Memorial Foundation and the UCSB Coastal Fund, our restoration efforts on the Gaviota Coast continue to flourish, providing habitat for wildlife, a sanctuary for nature lovers and invaluable experience for those who are learning while working at the Land Trust owned and operated Arroyo Hondo Preserve, located between Refugio and Gaviota State Beaches.Interns and volunteers are helping with the removal of invasive species and the re-introduction of native plants throughout the stream corridor over the course of three years. Arroyo Hondo Preserve, known as “The Jewel of the Gaviota Coast”, has a long and successful track record of habitat restoration, including the completion of a fish passage project that is bringing back its historic population of Steelhead trout while serving as a model to other creek projects along the coast. Arroyo Hondo creek is one of the most pristine watersheds in Santa Barbara County, making it an invaluable resource to students, scientists, hikers and the animals who call it home.The Arroyo Hondo Preserve Volunteer Restoration Program began in early 2002 to initiate riparian habitat restoration to enhance the environment for endangered Steelhead trout and other sensitive species in the creek such as California newt, Red-legged frog, and Tidewater goby.“It is so satisfying to be able to provide the hands-on experience for the student interns who are our future environmental leaders and biologists,” says Darlene Chirman, project biologist at Arroyo Hondo.
When it rains this winter, water will fill seven acres of re-created wetland habitat in the West Goleta Slough. Having secured grants from the California Wildlife Conservation Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the Land Trust is in the final phase of a project to remove fill roads, berms and fill dirt from the site of the 1940s U.S. Marine training base at the Goleta Slough. The Land Trust’s contractor, Peter Lapidus Construction is hard at work removing soil, improving tidal flow and planting the upland areas with over 29,000 native plants grown by local nurseries. This project is part of a long-term effort to restore the ecological processes of the Goleta Slough that have been compromised by public and private development over many decades.
Los Flores Hunt Property 1 (653 acres)
Thanks to the commitment and generosity of ranch owner Steve Lyons, a key land parcel between Los Alamos and Orcutt has been placed in a new conservation easement with The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Part of the original Las Flores Ranch, the 653-acre Lyons undeveloped property is on the southern slope of the Solomon Hills just west of the Highway 101.
The ranch is remarkable for being located at a coastal-inland transition zone, and shows both elements of habitats endemic to the western coast of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties (such as Burton Mesa chaparral) and elements of inland plant communities. The property, long used for cattle grazing and some dry farming, is a mosaic of dense coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, stabilized dunes, and open grassland. It is an important link for habitat continuity between the public undeveloped lands to the southwest (La Purisima State Park, the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve, and Vandenberg Air Force Base) and northeast (Los Padres National Forest), as it has relatively intact riparian habitat and culvert access under US 101 for migration of large mammals like deer, bear, mountain lion and bobcat.
Under the voluntary conservation agreement donated by Steve Lyons in December 2009, the ranch will be limited to one home site and about 100 acres of agricultural cultivation and associated agricultural support buildings. Most of the land will be left undeveloped and available for livestock grazing. The Land Trust is working with Lyons and two adjacent ranch owners on a conservation plan that ultimately should include over 4,500 acres of land, stretching from San Antonio Creek along Highway 135 to the Solomon Hills. The Careaga Canyon/Las Flores Creek project area includes ponds (both natural wetlands and man-made livestock ponds) that provide known and potential breeding habitat for the endangered California tiger salamander (CTS).
Based on two years of field studies of CTS breeding and movement patterns, the Land Trust’s conservation plan will protect important aquatic and upland habitat for CTS and other water-dependent species, while allowing residential and commercial agriculture to continue outside of the defined habitat corridors. The Land Trust hopes to secure federal and state grants to purchase conservation easements on these ranches. If successful, this project will show that it is possible to protected habitat for sensitive wildlife species in a way that supports will-planned commercial agriculture and limited residential development for ranch families and employees.
Rancho la Purisima (1,007 acres)
Only three miles north of Buellton and alongside Highway 101, the eastern rolling hills of Rancho la Purisima are what people see for over a mile traveling north from Buellton. Paul & Tina McEnroe have owned the 1,000 acre ranch since 1994, and run a successful cattle and horse breeding/training business.
The McEnroes have made active efforts to protect Valley Oak seedlings on their ranch, and to control an outbreak of invasive yellow star thistle, working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and a neighbor.
“We support the principles of conservation easements,” says Paul McEnroe. “We love our ranch as it is, a large singular parcel made up of a central valley surrounded by hills and ridges containing farm fields, open range and canopy oak land. This conservation easement will ensure our ability to live on the ranch as far as we can see into the future.”
La Paloma Ranch, Gaviota (750 acres)
Eric Hvolbøll’s great-grandparents purchased La Paloma Ranch in 1866, and his mother has lived her entire life there. Over the decades, the ranch in Venadito Canyon has been a sheep and cattle operation, and farmed for walnuts, tomatoes, lima beans, and most recently avocados. Their love of the land led the Hvolbølls to sell a conservation easement on the ranch in 2002.
The Land Trust arranged grant funding from the State Coastal Conservancy, County of Santa Barbara and State Resources Agency to have this land permanently restricted to agriculture. The family retained the right to build three family homes and two employee dwellings, but gave up the right to further subdivide or develop the property except for agricultural use. Ecologically valuable communities of coastal sage scrub, chaparral and riparian habitat are protected under the easement as well.
Freeman Ranch, Gaviota (660 acres)
The first conservation easement the Land Trust bought from a Gaviota rancher, the Freeman Ranch is the scenic backdrop to Refugio State Beach. The Freemans may use the land for any kind of agriculture, and may build homes necessary for family and employee use in areas outside the view of the public beach.
Important natural resource features on the ranch, including a large vernal pond, a 30 acre oak woodland, and one mile of Refugio Creek, are guarded through agricultural management practices the Freemans agreed to follow. This purchase was supported by grants from the California Farmland Conservancy Program, California Coastal Conservancy, State Resources Agency, the County Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund, and two private foundations.
Rancho Aldea Antigua (23 acres)
Rancho Aldea Antigua (Spanish for “ancient hamlet”) runs along the western ridge of the Franklin Creek watershed, just outside the Los Padres National Forest. It is one of several dozen small ranches and farms that create the beautiful, open landscape between Foothill Road and the forest land.
In recent years, the Land Trust has secured conservation easements on much of the land in the upper Franklin Creek and Santa Monica Creek watersheds, on Rancho Monte Alegre and the Horton Family 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.
The ranch is a key part of the open space view looking east from the proposed Franklin Trail. This historic hiking trail route, long closed by litigation involving a prior landowner, will connect from a trailhead near Carpinteria High School through private ranch land and all the way to the Santa Ynez Mountains ridge and East Camino Cielo. The Land Trust worked with the County and The Trust for Public Land to negotiate trail access agreements from the ranch owners. The County Parks Department is pursuing grant money to rebuild and reopen the trail.
Horton Family Ranch (104 acres)
Bill Horton and Glenna Berry Horton placed 104 acres of their avocado ranch in a permanent conservation easement to guarantee that most of this scenic and productive avocado ranch will remain undeveloped in perpetuity.Bill’s grandparents founded the ranch, and two succeeding generations have grown lemons, then avocados, on the ranch ever since.
“Our ranch has been in the family since the late 1800s and we expect to pass it on to the next generation. Our forebears would be gratified by the benefit the conservation easement provides to the community,” says Bill Horton.
Rancho Dos Vistas, Gaviota (1,406 acres)
At the top of Refugio Pass and just west of former President Reagan’s “Western White House,” Rancho Dos Vistas is now governed by a conservation easement that allows only three home sites, and sets aside ninety percent of the land for wildlife habitat. The Land Trust helped landowner Cima del Mundo secure a state income tax credit for donating this easement, under the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Act sponsored by Senator Jack O’Connell. Cima del Mundo also donated a 2.5 mile trail easement that connects two sections of federal land in Los Padres National Forest. Some day Rancho Dos Vistas’ trails may connect to the Arroyo Hondo Preserve and to Refugio Road, allowing a “coast-to-crest” public trail route that is isolated from other agricultural and private home sites.
Valley Oaks, Lompoc (8 acres)
In 1990, the John Bodger & Sons farming company donated to the Land Trust this conservation easement over a scenic oak grove adjacent to Santa Rosa County Park, retaining the right to use the land for hiking, picnicking, horseback riding and nature studies, and agreeing to keep it open to allow the free passage of wildlife. The landowner agreed to do this at the request of the County Planning Commission during the review of a lot split on their adjacent farmland.
San Roque Ranch, Santa Barbara (880 acres)
In the foothills behind Santa Barbara, San Roque Ranch is one of the largest undeveloped properties along the city limits. The land was purchased by environmental investment group Cima del Mundo, which donated an easement on 880 acres of the 1,200-acre ranch. The easement includes the rich upper riparian woodland along San Roque Creek, reaching all the way up to La Cumbre Peak. Cima del Mundo gave up the right to build homes on five existing land parcels. A productive avocado orchard, and land developable for a few home sites, remains south of the conservation easement. The riparian woodland, chaparral scrub and towering sandstone formations of San Roque Ranch, now owned by Land Trust supporters Michael and Robin Klein, will always remain a spectacular scenic backdrop to Santa Barbara. The Arroyo Burro public trail easement crosses the ranch, offering hikers a close up view of the nearby easement land.
Rancho Las Cruces, Gaviota (900 acres)
On one of the larger private ranches in the county, owners Jonathan & Nancy Kittle granted a conservation easement on 900 acres of upper watershed land to The Nature Conservancy in 1973. The easement, which protects the oak woodland, chaparral, grassland, small streams and springs on this part of Rancho Las Cruces, was transferred to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County in 1984. Rancher Louise Hanson purchased the property with the conservation easement in the 1980’s. The easement permits the landowner to pasture and graze livestock, and to build and maintain water-related improvements.
Rancho Felicia, Santa Ynez (314 acres)
In 1998, Walter Thomson also donated a conservation easement over Rancho Felicia, part of the first thoroughbred training ranch established in the Santa Ynez Valley. Mr. Thomson wanted to guard the agricultural heritage of Happy Canyon, and make sure his ranch never becomes the target of “ranchette” subdivision, so the easement allowed only two separate parcels to be created, each with a home site. The land is otherwise restricted to agricultural use. Important stands of native sycamore, pine and oak trees on the ranch may not be cleared.
Marcelino Springs Ranch, Buellton (70 acres)
When the City of Buellton voted to annex farmland owned by Norman Williams to build a new housing development, school, city park, Mr. Williams was faced with paying a large fee to the State of California to cancel the Agricultural Preserve (Williamson Act) contract on his land. However, a new state law allows landowners to put an equivalent piece of land under an agricultural conservation easement rather than pay the cancellation fee. Mr. Williams worked with the Land Trust to place an easement on row crop and grazing land that is part of the Marcelino Springs Ranch, just outside of Buellton.
Briggs Family Ranch, Lompoc (86 acres)
Harold & Dorothy Briggs donated one land parcel along the Santa Ynez River to the Land Trust in 1989, and their estate donated an adjacent parcel in 1995. The Land Trust then sold the ranch to a private buyer, retaining an agricultural easement to keep the property open for ranching and farming and to protect the river frontage as wildlife habitat. The easement also safeguards the Tom Briggs Memorial, a meadow overlooking the river dedicated to the Briggs’ son who was killed in Vietnam.
Great Oak Ranch, Santa Ynez (1128 acres)
Thoroughbred owner and breeder Walter Thomson and his late wife Holly donated a conservation easement in 1986 over their Happy Canyon ranch, to make sure this spectacular, oak-studded land is never subdivided for development. Now belonging to the Thomson’s grandchildren, the Great Oak Ranch may be divided into a maximum of three lots. The easement restricts cultivated agriculture to mapped areas outside of the oak savannah, native grassland and pine forest that serves as an important wildlife corridor between Lake Cachuma and the Los Padres National Forest.
Fairview Gardens (12 acres)
Fairview Gardens is home to the popular organic farm on Fairview Avenue next door to the Goleta public library. It is one of the few remaining farms not lost to the urbanization of Goleta. Thousands of people visit Fairview Gardens each year to shop at its farm stand, to take the self-guided farm tour, or to join in various fun and educational events sponsored by the Center for Urban Agriculture. Visit Fairview Gardens’ web site.
The Land Trust helped the Center purchase the land at a discounted price by placing an agricultural easement on the farm. Grant funds awarded by the County Board of Supervisors, along with private and foundation gifts, helped complete the land purchase.
Our 1997 agricultural easement requires that 88% of the land be used for agricultural production, with farm support, employee housing and educational uses allowed on the remaining land. This easement is unique in that it requires that Fairview Gardens use organic or biodynamic farming methods only. Conservation easements don’t typically specify agricultural methods, but the Center for Urban Agriculture is strongly committed to organic farming, and wanted the easement to reflect that commitment.
Rancho Rinconada, Buellton (105 acres)
When they decided to buy Rancho Rinconada to build a new winery and vineyard on Santa Rosa Road, long-time Land Trust members Richard and Thekla Sanford volunteered to donate a conservation easement over 105 acres of the oak woodland on their 438-acre property. Their magnificent new winery is now open for business, and the dense oak woodland surrounding the vineyard is permanently set aside in a Land Trust easement.
El Capitan Ranch, Gaviota (650 acres)
The national conservation group The Trust for Public Land (TPL) recently completed fundraising to acquire 2,500 acres on the El Capitan Ranch, to become part of the El Capitan State Park. In a related transaction, our local Land Trust now holds conservation easements on the remaining 650 acres of El Capitan Ranch. These easements provide for continued operation of the private El Capitan Campground and the existing equestrian training ranch. Outside of these already developed areas, only two new homes may be built, and the land is otherwise restricted for agricultural use.