- Las Flores Hunt Property, Los Alamos (653 acres)
- Midland School Ranch, Santa Ynez (2,727 acres)
- Hibbits Ranch, Lompoc (394 acres)
- Sedgwick Reserve, Santa Ynez Valley (5,896 acres)
- Burton Mesa Chaparral/Mackie Mountain, Lompoc (17 acres)
- Rancho la Purisima, Buellton (1,007 acres)
- Rancho Felicia, Santa Ynez Valley (314 acres)
- Rancho Santa Rosa Preserve
- Briggs Family Ranch, Lompoc (86 acres)
- Bodger Oak Woodland, Lompoc (8 acres)
- Rancho La Rinconada, Buellton (127 acres)
- Marcelino Springs Ranch, Buellton (70 acres)
- Rancho Las Cruces, Gaviota (900 acres)
- Rancho Dos Vistas, Gaviota (1,406 acres)
- Williams Ranch, Santa Ynez Valley (100 acres)
- Great Oak Ranch, Santa Ynez Valley (1,128 acres)
- Freeman Ranch, Gaviota (660 acres)
- Arroyo Hondo Preserve, Gaviota (782 acres)
- La Paloma Ranch and Hvoboll Trust Property, Gaviota (750 acres)
- El Capitan Ranch and Horse Ranch, Gaviota (650 acres)
- Burton Ranch Chapparal Preserve, Lompoc (95 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.
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, has been secured by a conservation easement by the national Trust for Public Land and held by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.
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.Visiting Midland School
For more information about visiting Midland, contact them directly at (805)-688-5114.
If you have driven on Highway 246 into Lompoc, you have seen the sunlight flickering through the big walnut groves that are the hallmark of The Hibbits Ranch, a 395-acre farm just east of the city limits.Four generations of the Hibbits family have farmed the Lompoc Valley, building a diverse and successful farming operation run today by Art and Sherry Hibbits. Their ranch features prime topsoil over 30 feet deep in places, and has supported a wide array of nuts, vegetables, seed crops as well as cattle grazing, for over a century.
The Hibbits family decided to protect the enduring scenic and agricultural value of their land through a voluntary conservation agreement with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. The Hibbits Ranch is the largest single land holding within a block of scenic and highly productive farmland framed by the City of Lompoc, the Santa Ynez River and Santa Rosa Hills, and La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. Located less than 2,000 feet from the Lompoc city limit, there have been several attempts to extend city limits east across the Santa Ynez River on to this and adjacent farm properties. In recent years, hundreds of acres of agricultural land west and north of the city have been already been annexed and converted to residential and commercial development.
The Hibbits are long-standing advocates for the protection and improvement of local agriculture. The Hibbits Ranch has the second oldest Agricultural Preserve Contract in Santa Barbara County, and Art Hibbits has served many years on land use and agricultural committees, including a stint on the County Planning Commission.
Says Art Hibbits:
“Our family’s goals in pursuing this conservation easement are to protect and encourage the continued agricultural uses on the ranch in a long term sustainable manner, whereby productivity and economic viability are maintained and enhanced. We want future generations to have the maximum flexibility in future choices of crops, equipment, agricultural related facilities, and farming practices and our agreement with the Land Trust will clearly state these objectives.”
Set in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, the Sedgwick Reserve stands not only as a historical tribute to the Valley’s agricultural heritage, but offers a breathtaking picture of what California was like for centuries before Western man brought “progress” to this part of the globe. The Sedgwick Reserve contains much of the watershed of Figueroa Creek, from rolling oak savannah, to grassland harboring many native grasses, to the gray pine forest extending into the Los Padres National Forest to the north. The Sedgwick Reserve lies between what were once the two largest Chumash villages in the Santa Ynez Valley: Soxtonokmu and Kalawashaq’. According to artifacts found on the property, the Reserve appears to have been both a residence and path frequented between the two villages up until 1822. After this time, the Chumash in the Santa Ynez Valley were removed from their villages and baptized into missions. For the next 150 years the Sedgwick Reserve was used primarily for ranching and dry farming. The original Rancho La Laguna ranch headquarters, bunkhouses, barns and vintage farm implements speak to the ranching history of Santa Barbara County dating to the Mexican rancho days. Archaeologists have cataloged Chumash burial sites over 2,000 years old. Francis “Duke” Sedgwick and his wife, Alice de Forest Sedgwick bought the Ranch in 1952. Duke began working out of the artist loft and invited other artists to come and take part the beauty of Sedgwick, which started a legacy of arts and education that remains today. In 1967, Mr. Sedgwick donated a controlling interest in 5,114 acres in the ranch to UC Santa Barbara, with the intent that the entire property go to the UCSB when he and his wife were gone. However, in 1988 after Mr. Sedgwick’s death, Mrs. Sedgwick decided to leave her remaining interest in 782 acres to her five children. At the same time, she authorized the University to sell the rest of the ranch, contrary to Mr. Sedgwick’s gift of the land. Mrs. Sedgwick passed away a few months later and in the late 1980’s, UCSB proposed to sell their portion. The Sedgwick children were also debating sale of their interest, in part to pay estate taxes.In the early 1990’s, motivated by research scientists, artists and preservationists, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County agreed to lead a “Save the Sedgwick” campaign to acquire the 782 acres from the heirs to the Sedgwick estate. In a complex, several year effort, the Land Trust succeeded in raising $3.2 million from local, state and foundation grants, and a great many individual donations, our first large land purchase. We then agreed that the land would be placed under a conservation easement to permanently protect it from development and that it would become part of the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS), who has managed the Reserve since 1997.
Sedgwick Today and Into the Future
Today the Sedgwick Reserve is being used extensively for research, arts and education programs. Over 38 visitors per day, and up to 6,400 a year visit Sedgwick Reserve. One of the most successful research and restoration projects is Kids in Nature which brings in over 100 children from regional schools to do habitat restoration and to learn about nature from the Reserve’s volunteer docents.
Scientists from UCSB and other institutions around the world now participate in ecological and agricultural research and projects include the study of oak tree regeneration, native grass competition with invasive plant species, the ecological role of pocket gophers, and many other studies related to the rich populations of native plants, lichen, insects, reptiles and vertebrate animals that call the Sedgwick Reserve home. In addition the conservation easement negotiated by the Land Trust requires that a minimum of 200 acres of the “heirs parcel” land be used for agriculture.
Visiting Sedgwick Reserve
For information on how you can go to experience one of Santa Barbara County’s most special places and learn about the Sedgwick Reserve’s research, art, educational and public access programs, contact the Sedgwick at (805) 686-1941 or more information available on their site.
In the 1980s, when the land around Mackie Mountain (locals also call it “Muffin Hill”) was proposed for development of the Vandenberg Village homes, the county planning commission required that the 17 acre Mackie Mountain site be set aside as open space. The developer offered a permanent conservation easement to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Surrounded entirely by homes now, the Mackie Mountain preserve protects regionally unique Burton Mesa Chaparral vegetation, and provides local residents walking trails around and to the hilltop, offering a panoramic view of the Lompoc Valley and the nearby 5,000 acre Burton Mesa Chaparral Preserve owned by the State of California.Visiting Mackie Mountain
You can visit Mackie Mountain during daylight hours. Park near one of the four access trails on Galaxy Way in Vandenberg Village.
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.”
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 became 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.
Description Coming Soon!
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.
In 1990, the John Bodger & Sons farming company donated this conservation easement to the Land Trust 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.
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. The dense oak woodland surrounding the vineyard is permanently set aside in a Land Trust easement.
When the City of Buellton voted to annex farmland owned by Norman Williams to build a new housing development, school, and 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.
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.
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.
In the 1980s and 90s, the late Walter Thomson granted some of the earliest conservation easements in Santa Barbara County. Easements now held by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara protect three adjacent Santa Ynez Valley ranches covering 1440 acres of land at the entry to scenic Happy Canyon. The Williams Ranch is 100 acres of land, featuring hilly coastal sage scrub, pine and oak woodland. Next door is the Great Oak Ranch, which stretches to the north shore of Cachuma Lake and is owned by Mr. Thomson’s grandchildren. Together the three Land Trust conservation easements ensure permanent protection of ranching, farming and wildlife habitat in one of the prettiest valleys to be found.
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.
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.
Called the “Jewel of the Gaviota Coast,” the 782-acre Arroyo Hondo Preserve is a magnificent canyon located west of Santa Barbara between Refugio State Beach and Gaviota State Park. The old ranch is rich in early California history and has an abundance of outstanding natural features.
Because it is a property that we continue to own and manage, we have an entire section of our website dedicated to this beautiful community resource.
For all the details about the history, how to visit and more, please visit here
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
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.
In June the Land Trust completed a conservation agreement to protect 95 acres of land featuring unique Burton Mesa Chaparral, coastal scrub and oak savannah habitat near Vandenberg Village. Burton Mesa Chaparral is a unique form of maritime chaparral that is only found in the sandy soils north of Lompoc. Over 300 native plant species are found in the area.
This easement was granted by Martin Farrell Homes and The Towbes Group to mitigate impacts associated with a housing development they are building nearby. The new Land Trust preserve is largely surrounded by the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve that is managed by the Department of Fish & Game. Popular walking trails connect this site to the state reserve. The Land Trust will monitor the property and work with the owners and Fish & Game to protect and enhance the ecological resources of this special habitat. You can find out more about the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve here