Which Land Conservancy properties are open to the public?
Special Places Open to the Public.  Enjoy these local lands, but please remember that they are sensitive and unique environments.

Lemon Grove Loop Trail (SLO) –
Our most accessible is the Lemon Grove Loop trail at the base of Cerro San Luis in San Luis Obispo. This area, known as the Maino Open Space Preserve, was protected in partnership with the City of San Luis Obispo, and can be accessed via a trailhead located off the Marsh St. Freeway southbound onramp. This is a public use area with great views of San Luis Obispo.

Henry Kluck Memorial Trail (Cambria) –
A beautiful walking path in the Fern Canyon area of Cambria. This short trail connects Camborne Avenue to Fern Drive, leading through majestic Monterey pines, oaks, ferns, and a seasonal creek.

Stenner Springs and West Cuesta Grade Preserves (SLO) –
The popular mountain biking trails known as “Morning Glory” and “Shooters” pass through several parcels that were acquired by the Land Conservancy from the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Start from the top of West Cuesta Grade Road and head down to Cal Poly lands – best to consult a local mountain biking guide for mapped directions.

Bowden Ranch Open Space Preserve (SLO) –
Located at the top of Lizzie Street is a trailhead which lead to the top of “High School Hill”. This difficult hike begins in a grove and passes a perennial spring-fed creek several times before the steep, uphill works begins. The views from the top are unsurpassed. This preserve is the outcome of yet another successful public-private partnership with the City of San Luis Obispo.

Olde Towne Creekside Preserve (Nipomo) –
A lovely sanctuary in the midst of an urban environment. Walk along a series of short paths featuring native plants along Nipomo Creek. The site is accessible to the public behind the Adobe Plaza in Olde Towne Nipomo.

Bob Jones City-to-Sea Trail (Avila) –
This popular paved pathway follows San Luis Obispo Creek to its confluence with the Pacific Ocean at Avila Beach. The trailhead & parking area is currently located at Ontario Road near the intersection with San Luis Bay Drive, just south of the City of San Luis Obispo.


Which Land Conservancy properties are only accessible via docent led walks and volunteer events?

Black Lake Preserve (Nipomo Dunes) –
This preserve in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes offers views of Black Lake, birding opportunities, and boasts a display of Monarch butterflies each spring. It is also an active restoration area for dune scrub habitat. See our events calendar for tour dates.

Octagon Barn Center (SLO) –
Call our office at 544-9096 to arrange a tour of San Luis Obispo’s historic Octagon Barn. Restoration of the structure has recently been completed, and the area is now poised to become a cultural hub in the coming years.

Filipponi Ecological Area (SLO) –
Owned by the City of San Luis Obispo, this unique 80-acre property has been restored over the last decade by The Land Conservancy. We occasionally lead educational expeditions into this area.

Turley Vineyards (Paso Robles) –
This historic and resource-rich landscape is permanently protected with a donated conservation easement, meaning the land will forever remain in working agriculture. Visit the tasting room and be sure to thank owners Larry & Suzanne Turley for donating the land for conservation.

Hidden Springs Christmas Tree Farm (Atascadero) –
When you need a Christmas tree, consider buying it from The Frank Family in Atascadero. The Franks have been farming the land for four generations and donated a conservation easement to forever protect the rolling hills, sturdy oaks and clear waters that surround their tree farm.

Future preserves

We expect to bring access to additional preserves over the next few years.

Black Lake Canyon Preserve (Nipomo) –
This site will be opened with a trail following some habitat restoration, additional land conservation, and construction of a trail.

Lower San Luis Obispo Creek Floodplain Preserve –
This preserve will, one day, be part of the Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail that joins San Luis Obispo with Avila Beach. The Land Conservancy owns 1.5 miles of the future route.


Why are some Land Conservancy properties docent-led access only?

Some of the lands we protect suffer from habitat damage or are very sensitive to human disturbance. We limit human activity in these areas to reduce threats to restoration efforts or sensitive habitats. We enjoy showing these sites and want all of our visitors to see the full potential of these sites. Docent led hikes also give us an opportunity to share more information about specific resources and their stewardship.

In some other cases, our conservation sites are still privately owned properties. We respect the privacy of the landowners we work with. It is common for private landowners we work with to allow guided visits to these properties. This often allows a great opportunity for the landowner to talk about what the land means to them and about the challenges of stewardship.


Name some of the LCSLO's major accomplishments and land acquisitions?

Saving Monterey Pines in Cambria –
The Land Conservancy has purchased over 300 individual lots along the pine forested Lodge Hill area of Cambria. Protecting these many small lots has helped support the long-term protection of the southernmost native Monterey pine forest.

Watershed protection along San Luis Obispo Creek –
The Land Conservancy has undertaken over 30 physical projects along San Luis Obispo Creek to enhance habitats for steelhead trout. These include restoring eroded banks, re-planting 5 miles of stream banks, and removal of migration impediments to fish. We have also conserved over 100 acres of streamside lands.

Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail –
The Land Conservancy has secured 1.5 miles of land for the future Bob Jones Trail. The trail will join San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach. We have been in partnership with the County for 10 over years. Construction will begin in the next few years on trail sections though land Conservancy lands.

San Luis Obispo City Greenbelt –
The Land Conservancy has been a long-time partner in creating the San Luis Obispo Greenbelt. We authored the original greenbelt resource inventory and priority plan when the greenbelt first started. Since then we have authored an updated priority report and helped the City complete a number of important conservation projects including the Stenner Springs, Bowden Ranch, and Maino Open Space Preserves, as well as the Stenner Ranch and Guidetti Ranch conservation easements.

Black Lake Canyon –
This unique canyon bisects the Nipomo Mesa and contains unique wetland habitats. We have protected almost all of the wetland resources through numerous conservation transactions in the Canyon. Some of these areas have already been restored and more restoration is planned. Ultimately we envision working to re-establish populations of the Gambel’s watercress and the Marsh sandwort.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes –
The Land Conservancy now owns a 180 acre preserve at Black Lake. This unique lake is surrounded by sand dunes. The site is an overwintering site for thousands of monarch butterflies and is also an active coastal dune scrub restoration site. At the south end of the Dunes, we purchased half of Paradise Beach and deeded it to Santa Barbara County for inclusion in a regional park. We also hold a conservation easement which protects over 1,000 acres of freshwater lakes and agricultural lands in the lower La Cienega Valley owned by Dunes Lakes Ltd.


How can I help protect local land?

Consider Donating Land –
If you are a landowner with special lands, you can contact us at the Land Conservancy to confidentially discuss conservation options and benefits to you as a land donor. There are many tax advantages and estate planning benefits associated with conservation.

Contribute as a Member –
We also welcome those that want to help to donate funds and become members of our organization. We are a local organization that is partially funded by local donors. We have developed a set of conservation funds that speak to the various activities of the Land Conservancy, and we work with donors to match their interests to our needs.

Volunteer your time & skills –
Our organization relies on community support to fulfill our mission. Volunteers help implement restoration projects, steward & maintain sensitive lands, spread the message about our work, and support the administrative efforts of staff. From planting a tree to chairing a committee, volunteers are critical to helping us save special places in San Luis Obispo County.


What is a Land Trust?

A Land Trust is a special type of non-profit that is organized for the expressed purpose of permanently protecting land. By meeting certain requirements of the Internal Revenue Service, we are authorized to accept qualifying Conservation Easements that result in federal tax savings. There are many different types of land trusts. They may be international, national, statewide, and local in scope. Some focus on habitat lands, and others may focus on other resources such as grazing land, farmland, and parks. The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County focuses on family farms and ranches, important habitats, scenic areas, and cultural sites. We work only in San Luis Obispo County, so local donations are spent right here in our county.

Are land trusts government agencies?
While quasi-state conservancies do exist, such as the California Coastal Conservancy or Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, local land trusts are not government agencies. The Land Conservancy is a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that operates for the public good. In most cases, working with a land trust to conserve land does not directly involve a government agency until a tax deduction is sought. As a land trust, we do work closely with government agencies. Often, local government agencies have established conservation goals and it is important for our work to be consistent with these goals.

What are the advantages of working with a land trust?
When working with a local land trust, you are working with people that live in your community and care about the land that is being protected. Through conservation projects, there are often substantial tax benefits. A donated Conservation Easement, for example, is deductible as a charitable contribution on a donor – s income tax. Conservation Easements may also be an important part of a landowner’s estate plan as they reduce the value of the taxable estate. This can make it easier to pass land on to the next generation without having to develop the land.

What does a land trust do?
Land Trusts work directly with private landowners to help them achieve their conservation goals through permanent conservation. This usually takes the form of private conservation agreements for private land, but may also involve purchasing the land outright. The form a project takes is determined by the landowner. Land trusts also help communities realize their stated conservation goals by merging the interests of private landowners and the public. The basis of good conservation is protecting land that contains resources that are listed priorities for the country, state, county or locality. Land trusts, therefore, do not protect all land. We focus on conservation that will help implement stated goals, such as the protection of prime agricultural soils or rare plant habitats. Helping achieve these community goals is the basis for the tax benefits of Conservation Easements.


What is a conservation easement?

A Conservation Easement is a private set of restrictions that are recorded on the property’s deed. The restrictions regulate what land uses are appropriate and allowable on the land. In most cases, the Conservation Easement restricts housing, commercial, or industrial uses of the property. They may also restrict certain land practices such as cutting of oaks or streamside trees. In all cases, they restrict surface mining for minerals. The restrictions are negotiated directly between the landowner, the landowner’s attorney, and the land trust. Every Conservation Easement is different and adapted to meet the needs of both the land and the landowner.

By definition, a Conservation Easement is forever. This perpetuity is a requirement in the Internal Revenue Code that allows for a tax deduction on the easement’s value. For this reason, a landowner needs to consider their plans for the future, including those of the next generation.

Why should I grant a conservation easement to a land trust?
We find that most of those we work with do a Conservation Easement because they care deeply about their land, as well as their desire to pass the land on to their children. Conservation Easements assure that the land is cared for forever and can reduce the value of the taxable estate. The easements are a tool for lowering estate taxes so the next generation does not lose the property due to a high estate tax bill upon death of their family member. Conservation Easements also qualify as charitable contributions against the landowner’s income tax.

Are conservation easements popular?
Conservation Easements are gaining in popularity as more family farmers and ranchers are considering the transfer of land to their children. Ultimately, conservation is more of a practical matter than a matter of popularity. In situations where it is most beneficial we see more interest.

What steps do I take to write a conservation easement?
The Land Conservancy has staff expertise in writing Conservation Easements, so the first step is to contact us at the Land Conservancy. We will evaluate your situation to decided if it is a project we are able to help with or whether another conservation group would be more appropriate. If the land and resources are consistent with our project criteria, we will visit the property and meet to discuss the various methods of protecting the land. We then prepare a staff report that is considered by our Board of Trustees. If the Board accepts the project, staff will begin drafting a document and will ask that you retain legal counsel. We do not negotiate Conservation Easements with landowners that are not represented by an attorney. This is for the protection of the landowner and the land trust.

What are a land trust’s responsibilities regarding conservation easements?
A Conservation Easement represents a big responsibility to the land trust. It is our responsibility to monitor compliance with the easement and, if necessary, enforce it in court. The land trust is, in fact, required to do this by the State Attorney General. We are also responsible to the IRS for Conservation Easements that generate a federal tax deduction.

Does a Conservation Easement Cost Anything?
The short answer is yes. A landowner should be prepared to pay for legal counsel, and may also be responsible for acquiring a land appraisal or other necessary reports on the land condition. Sometimes costs are shared for some of these items. Because the land trust takes on a perpetual responsibility for monitoring and enforcement, we build into each transaction a plan for recovering our costs for these services. In most cases, landowners will be asked to make a contribution to the stewardship and defense fund, a pooled fund that covers our costs for monitoring and defense. We will discuss costs early on in the project planning so all parties are duly informed of their responsibilities.


Are there other conservation methods?

Land Purchase –
In some cases, a land trust may purchase land outright for conservation. Because these require a much higher level of fundraising and management commitment, they are less common. In some cases, the land trust does not hold the land forever, choosing instead to transfer it to a public agency for public use. This is often the case for parklands and trail routes that are purchased by land trusts. Most land trusts do not seek to own land forever, but will in some cases. We at the Land Conservancy do own a number of properties. We are holding them ourselves because they either generate sufficient income from land uses or are important restoration sites that have work underway.

Often, the sale of land to a land trust results in substantial capital gains tax. This tax burden is often deferred by a sale of the land at below market value. In this case, the land is less expensive for the land trust and the landowner receives the same benefits via a combination of tax relief and sale income. This type of transaction is called a “bargain sale”.

Land Donations –
The Land Conservancy is able to accept donated land if it is free of encumbrances and has been surveyed for toxic substances. The land must also meet our conservation criteria if is to be held for conservation purposes and the land trust must have a source of funds for land management. Potential land donors are encouraged to contact the Land Conservancy to discuss this process. The Land Conservancy may also accept land donations for the purpose of resale to raise funds for our conservation mission. In these cases the donor will be notified of this intent. We may also accept land with the intention of re-selling it to raise funds as well as for Conservation. We will record a Conservation Easement on the property during escrow. These lands will often allow some residential use. Land can be donated to the Land Conservancy as part of an estate planning tool such as a retained life state. In this transaction, a donor transfers title of the property to the land trust and is allowed to remain living on the property until their death, at which time the land trust accepts all rights to the land. This transaction is used to reduce the value of the taxable estate and can benefit donors with an income tax deduction as well.


How does The Land Conservancy pay for restoring damaged lands?

The vast majority of our funding for our restoration projects comes from various types of grant programs. We prepare proposals for granting entities such as private foundations and federal, state, and local agencies. Usually these programs are competitive, in other words other non-profit organizations apply for the same funding we do. When awarded funding for our projects we are required to submit reports and detailed proof related to how the money was spent and what activities were completed.


Why do we need to restore streams?

San Luis Obispo County’s streams have been valuable resources for people, wildlife, and fish for thousands of years. For people, the streams are a source of drinking water, irrigation water for local farms, and places to cool off on a hot day. A variety of wildlife, especially fish, depends on the streams for homes, water, migration corridors, and protection from predators.

Keeping a balance between the multiple demands for stream resources is difficult, and we have seen where demands on local creeks have lead to degradation of all the beneficial services they provide. Steelhead are one of the resources we watch as an indicator of how people have impacted the streams. When steelhead populations decline, we know that more needs to be done to balance the competing needs. Steelhead are now listed as a threatened species. At the Land Conservancy, we know how important the streams are for all their uses. This is why we have chosen to develop a program to help balance the needs of people and wildlife alike by physically improving the functions of our streams for all users.


What type of restoration projects has The Land Conservancy completed?

The Land Conservancy is uniquely experienced in managing and implementing many types of restoration projects. Most of our projects involve the re-establishment of native grasses, trees, and shrubs. We have become skilled at selecting appropriate species and using the right techniques to help those plants survive. We are also skilled at working in active streams to stabilize banks, which requires us to secure permits and divert water flow without harming sensitive wildlife. On bank stabilization projects we use a combination of heavy equipment, rock, and soft practices, such as willow pegging or erosion control fabric, to meet our goals. We also have experience constructing wetlands, including building ponds and improving floodplain function. Our project experience also includes modifying human structures such as “perched” culverts that impede the migration of steelhead in our local streams.

Invasive species removal is a large part of what we do. In the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes we work to protect sensitive flora and fauna by reducing competition from invasive weeds that have no natural controls or predators. We also work diligently to remove aquatic invasive plant species such as Arundo (Giant Reed) from our local waterways.


How does The Land Conservancy get permission to work in sensitive habitats in our County? Aren't there rules that prohibit working in these areas?

For all land restoration projects The Land Conservancy is required to undergo the same environmental review that any land owner must follow for a project that has the potential to harm natural resources. Some of our smaller projects get exempted from review due to the limited size and scope of the restoration practices proposed. However, we commonly have to secure permits from all levels of government for the work that we do. These permits ensure that we are aware of potential impacts, that all agencies are informed of our activities, and that the public knows we are taking the measures necessary to protect sensitive species and important habitat.


How do you know if your restoration project worked?

The Land Conservancy employs a variety of formal scientific monitoring methods to determine whether a restoration project has satisfied its success criteria. In addition to providing a measure of success for our restoration projects, monitoring provides critical feedback to our Restoration Program which helps inform the need for any additional management effort. Of course, only the passage of time will truly reveal the enduring effects of our efforts.


What can I do if I have a problem with invasive plants or bank erosion on my land?

Give us a call at (805) 544-9096. Sometimes we can partner with landowners to complete projects on their land. At the very least our professional staff can provide you with contact information for other organizations that can help.


How can I get involved in local restoration efforts?

– Join as a Land Conservancy member to support our ongoing restoration and conservation programs.
– Dedicate your Land Conservancy contributions to the Healthy Lands Forever Fund.