Eagle Ranch LLC and The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County have entered into an agricultural easement agreement that permanently protects 3,255 acres south of Atascadero and is the largest conservation easement gift in the history of the Land Conservancy.
The easement covers 36 separate parcels containing 3,255 acres of pristine grazing land and iconic Eagle Peak and was donated outright to The Land Conservancy. The property, located on the western side of Highway 101 south of Atascadero is adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and offers rolling and steep foothills with oak woodlands, oak savannah, sagebrush, chaparral, and rangeland. The conservation easement is not part of the north ranch property proposed for annexation into the city of Atascadero.
The Eagle Ranch property has been in the Smith family for multiple generations. Brothers Greg and Jeff Smith, two of the principals of Eagle Ranch LLC and descendants of family owners who purchased the ranch more than a half century ago, recall spending summer vacations and other times enjoying the ranch. The Smiths note the conservation agreement reflects their family’s commitment to protecting the property for future generations. “Eagle Ranch is a very special place for our family,” said Greg Smith. “This agreement has been more than ten years in the making, and it is so gratifying to finally realize our longtime dream of permanent preservation.” Smith added that Eagle Ranch currently supports a modest herd of cattle and will remain a working cattle ranch into the foreseeable future.
“The Smith Family has made a visionary and meaningful contribution to our community by voluntarily donating perpetual protections over their pristine and beautiful land. It is no small thing to donate an easement over a special place so valuable and worthy of protection. We are humbled by their gift and are honored to partner with them to shape the future of South Atascadero by conserving this amazing landscape and the agriculture operations that depend on it,” said Kaila Dettman, Executive Director of The Land Conservancy.
By protecting Eagle Ranch with an easement, the landowners are supporting sustainable agriculture, protecting homes for wildlife, and reducing development and water extraction in south Atascadero. The easement specifically promotes productive rangeland and agriculture in balance with healthy wildlands. It also protects Eagle Lake, a man-made lake developed in 1972 for agricultural use on the ranch, and numerous tributaries to the Salinas River. These streams include Atascadero Creek, Hale Creek, Paloma Creek, and Santa Margarita Creek. Eagle Ranch remains in private ownership, although The Land Conservancy will be able to host one docent-led hike on the property per year.