Land Conservation

Since 1984, The Land Conservancy has protected 66,000 acres of agricultural, open space, and wildlands in and around San Luis Obispo County. The vast majority of those acres are protected by conservation easements put in place through partnerships with local landowners. In many cases, the properties we help to protect are owned and managed by families that have lived on and cared for the land for generations.

Our organization also owns and manages multiple preserves, including the Pismo Preserve, Black Lake Canyon Ecological Area, Lower San Luis Obispo Creek Floodplain Preserve, and Santa Rita Ranch. Our properties provide refuge for the County’s unique flora and fauna, support local agriculture, and offer exciting educational and research opportunities. Together, these protected places reflect the special character of SLO County, cherished by residents and visitors alike. Conservation on this scale is only possible thanks to deep partnerships with landowners, our members, and volunteers that share a steadfast commitment to safeguarding the future of our county’s most important places.

How does The Land Conservancy protect land?

As an accredited land trust, The Land Conservancy most often partners with local landowners to conserve land through the use of conservation easements. In some cases, we obtain ownership of land with exceptional ecological, public access, or strategic conservation value. In real estate terms, this is known as obtaining “fee-ownership” of the land. We also collaborate with partner organizations and landowners throughout the county to support a wide variety of other land protection efforts, restoration projects, and conservation opportunities.

What are conservation easements?

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between The Land Conservancy and a landowner that limits certain land uses to ensure that their property’s conservation values are protected forever.  These conservation values may include things like scenic views, fresh water, productive farmland and rangeland, wildlife habitat, rare plants and animals, and more. Some conservation easements focus on just one or two of these important values, while others protect a wide variety of conservation values thanks to our County’s diverse landscapes. Landowners who place a conservation easement on their property maintain ownership of the land and are responsible for the continued management of their property. The Land Conservancy is responsible for ensuring that the terms and conditions of the easement agreement are upheld in perpetuity.

Conservation easements are:

Voluntary – we only work with landowners that want to work with us.

Adaptable – The easement can allow for a variety of existing and future land uses, such as ranching, farming, or family homesteads.

Individual – Each easement is tailored to the needs of the land and the goals of the landowner – no two are alike.

Permanent – Conservation easements run with the land in perpetuity.

What are fee-owned lands?

In some cases, The Land Conservancy acquires ownership of properties with exceptional conservation value. These are known as fee-owned properties. The purpose of acquiring fee ownership is usually similar to that of a conservation easement – to permanently protect important landscapes in our county. However, conservation easements are not always an option. Sometimes land is simply for sale on the open market, and The Land Conservancy will act to acquire and protect those lands under our ownership. Other times, there may be specific conservation goals that are best met by owning the land outright – such as protecting new open spaces to provide public access to nature or completing complex habitat restoration projects.

Fee-owned lands are:

Protected – These properties are acquired by The Land Conservancy and receive permanent protection under our ownership. 

Revitalized – The Land Conservancy implements long-term restoration projects on our properties to improve habitat, water resources, and remove non-native invasive plants.

Managed – We develop individual plans for each property to guide the management of each property’s unique conservation values. 

Collaborative – Fee-ownership of the land often involves partnerships with local farmers, ranchers, and land managers.