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Building Partnerships for Gaviota’s Future

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County has set as its highest priority building effective partnerships with landowners, public agencies and other non-profit groups to create lasting agricultural and natural resource protection on the Gaviota Coast. Guarding against overdevelopment of this last rural stretch of coastal Southern California is our biggest challenge.

Most people – whether they are ranchers, residents, environmentalists or recreational users of the coast – do not want the Gaviota landscape to change much from how it is today. People from diverse backgrounds generally hope to see:

• Ranches, orchards and new types of agriculture persist – despite economic pressure to grow subdivisions and Malibu mansions instead of food and fiber.

• Creeks, watersheds and critical wildlife habitat protected and restored, and the Southern steelhead and other threatened animals provided safe havens on well-managed private and public land.

• Landowners provided sound, scientific advice and incentives to be good stewards of natural resources, while not being fearful of having their land taken or their farms and ranches paralyzed by overregulation.

• Modest expansion of coastal recreation opportunities – beach access points, appropriately located trails (away from agricultural operations and private residences) – but not a big influx of visitor-serving development.

• Development of a cooperative ethic toward private and public stewardship of land and water resources, and expanded programs to support that ethic.

Since September 2000, five land conservation projects negotiated with landowners have resulted in the rural environment being permanently protected on 6,748 acres of Gaviota land.

Land Trust grants to purchase agricultural conservation easements convinced the owners of the Freeman Ranch (660 acres) and La Paloma Ranch (750 acres) to give up some of their development rights and keep their land available for agriculture.

Our easements provide for landowners to develop their own agricultural management practices to minimize impacts to natural creek corridors, oak woodland, wetland and coastal scrub habitat areas, with the Land Trust monitoring the success of those practices.

Rancho Dos Vistas (1,406 acres), at the top of Refugio Pass is now governed by a natural resource conservation easement that allows only three home sites, and sets aside ninety percent of the land for wildlife habitat. A donated 2.5 mile trail easement across the ranch connects two sections of federal land in Los Padres National Forest. Some day Rancho Dos Vistas’ trail may connect to the Land Trust’s 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.

With the Land Trust’s 2001 acquisition of the Arroyo Hondo Ranch from the Hollister family, the public has a great opportunity to visit and learn about the natural, agricultural and cultural history of the Gaviota Coast.

In October 2002, the national conservation group The Trust for Public Land (TPL) completed fundraising to acquire 2,500 acres on the El Capitan Ranch, which will become part of the El Capitan State Park. In a related transaction, we now hold 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 horse ranch, allow only two new homes and permanently restrict use of the remaining land to agriculture.

As the Land Trust turns its attention to the future, we see securing more conservation easements as our greatest priority and challenge. We look forward to promoting conservation options with landowners, and attracting grant funds and tax benefits for those who are willing to negotiate reduced development rights and protection of natural resources through Land Trust easements.

This way, we can help ensure that these working landscapes don’t ever become the target of developers, and that our grandchildren will enjoy a Gaviota coastline much like the one we see today.

The Land Trust appreciates the funding for Gaviota land conservation provided by these agencies and foundations:

California Coastal Conservancy
SB County Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund*
California Coastal Resources Grant Program
California Farmland Conservancy
California Department of Transportation
California Wildlife Conservation Board
Goleta Valley Land Trust
John S. Kiewit Memorial Foundation
David & Lucille Packard Foundation
Santa Barbara Foundation
Not Just Us Foundation
Wendy P. McCaw Foundation
The Lennox Foundation
The Looker Foundation
Terri Chernick Charitable Fund
Koffler Family Foundation
Crawford Idema Family Foundation
Audubon Society-SB Chapter
Arthur N. Rupe Foundation
Teton-Landis Family Foundation
Surfrider Foundation

…and hundreds of generous individual contributors.

*CREF grants are a partial mitigation of impacts from the following offshore oil and gas projects: Point Arguello, Point Pedernales, Santa Ynez Unit, and Gaviota Marine Terminal.

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