W e made national headlines in the Los Angeles Times for our innovative and successful conservation efforts in partnership with the United States Department of Defense.
As the premiere nonprofit land trust dedicated to San Luis Obispo County, we have leveraged funding from the U.S. Department of Defense Readiness andEnvironmental Protection Initiative and the Army Compatible Use Buffer program to conserve over three square miles of land worth $7.15 million.
“The L.A. Times article did a great job highlighting the benefits that our local land conservation efforts have on a national and even global scale,” notes Kaila Dettman, Executive Director. “It also shows one of the innovative ways that The Land Conservancy is partnering with diverse groups to protect important natural places in our community.”
As urban areas continuously expand toward military installations, the U.S. Department of Defense has quietly become a major protector of wilderness and natural lands. In partnership with land trusts and local governments, its Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative has helped buy nearly $1 billion worth of land at the bargain price of $300 million due to cost-sharing agreements with conservation partners like The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County.
Nationwide, the program has created buffer zones around 64 military bases where development threatened to encroach on combat training. In total, more than 260,000 acres of natural lands have been set aside and forever restricted from development. These places not only meet the goals of the military, but also harbor some of the most sensitive and rare wildlife on earth including California red-legged frog, the Pacific pocket mouse, and the Chorro creek bog thistle. These protected lands also provide opportunities for people to connect to local lands.
Susan Duran is one of 42 family members who sold their land for conservation purposes with funding from the Department of Defense program. “Dad always said, ‘Susie, this land should belong to everyone; it should not be developed,’” recalled Susan. Hikers can now access the remote beach and the stunning views, and the same opportunity exists for future generations.
Along the Central Coast, The Land Conservancy has leveraged funding from the Department of Defense’s program to permanently protect five properties representing landscapes unique to San Luis Obispo County.
The Army’s Camp San Luis Obispo has buffered itself from the growth of subdivisions in the City of San Luis Obispo by helping purchase 1,877 acres of land worth about $3.5 million, protecting habitat for endangered red-legged frogs and South Central California steelhead trout.
- In 2012, 535 acres were conserved at Highland Ranch along Los Osos Valley to protect prime farmland and a portion of the Morro Bay watershed.
- In 2011, development rights at O’Connor Ranch were retired to preserve 189 acres of working lands, scenic open space, and a portion of Cerro Romauldo.
- In 2008, in partnership with the City of San Luis Obispo, 838 acres along West Cuesta Grade were permanently protected as a working cattle operation at Stenner Ranch.
- In 2007, 315 acres of community open space that includes popular mountain bike trails were established at Stenner Springs Natural Reserve, adjacent to Los Padres National Forest lands.
Similarly, Vandenberg Air Force Base established a buffer from possible housing development for its missile launch site and government satellites by conserving 172 acres of land worth $3.7 million. This property completes the Point Sal Reserve and safeguards habitat for ten state or federally protected species in the Guadulupe Nipomo Dunes.
- In 2012, 172 acres of the Tognazzini Family homestead land along the northern section of Paradise Beach to Mussel Rock became public open space.
As a nonprofit land trust, our mission is to protect and restore local lands for the benefit of people and wildlife. Our partnership with the military has successfully helped us achieve major conservation goals while significantly benefitting county residents and visitors. We aim to continue working on projects that safeguard our land, water, and national security.
To read the Los Angeles Times article or to view comments and discussions, visit www.latimes.com and search for “wildlife protector”.