Santa Ynez Valley
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 mouth of Birabent Canyon on the property was site of Soxtonokmu, the largest Chumash village in the Santa Ynez Valley. The school was built around an early 20th century ranch, and the original farmhouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. Midland School generously shares its tremendous natural and cultural resources with the community, hosting scientific, educational and recreational activities.
The property rises from Alamo Pintado Creek to Grass Mountain and Lookout Peak in the San Rafael Mountains. With only one paved road in the area, it provides wildlife habitat that supports black bear, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and many raptors. While historic Valley oak woodland is in decline throughout central California, Midland supports a rich Valley oak woodland where teachers and students have an active reforestation program underway. The property features 130 acres of undisturbed Blue oak woodland, which formerly covered millions of acres of Central California but is now largely lost. The property also is home to the Santa Barbara Jewelflower, one of the rarest annual plants in North America that grows only in Serpentine rock outcrops like those found in the Figueroa Mountain area.
The future of this land, with its rare and unique plant communities and its location adjacent to the Sedgwick Reserve and Figueroa Mountain, will be secured by a conservation easement to be purchased by the national Trust for Public Land and held by the local Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.
“A conservation easement on the Midland School property aligns perfectly with the school’s mission,” notes Nick Alexander, president of the Midland Board of Trustees. Selling the easement will provide capital for the school’s endowment, which, among other things, will enable the school to continue a strong scholarship program for students motivated to be good stewards of the earth.
The Land Trust and TPL are working together to raise $4.6 million for the land project. Thanks to voter-approved bond acts, the state Wildlife Conservation Board has grants available for oak woodland conservation. This fall, the two organizations will launch a campaign to raise local matching funds for the state grant, transaction costs and long-term stewardship activities required by the conservation agreement that will permanently retire the development rights on the land.
The school’s operation, including a cattle grazing lease and school farm, will not be affected by the easement. If Midland ever leaves the property, the easement will limit use of the land to ranching and farming. The community will know that, between the Sedgwick Ranch and Midland School, these rare oak woodlands, creeks and grand gateway to the Santa Barbara backcountry will remain for future generations to enjoy.