The bucolic scenery characteristic of San Luis Obispo County is enjoyed for its beauty, but these rural landscapes aren’t just for looking at. These farms and ranch lands produce the food that sustains our communities and contributes to our exceptional quality of life. However, landowners today face growing pressure to develop, subdivide, or intensify production on their agricultural properties. These types of transformations would threaten these productive lands and dramatically change our community character.

A few years ago, the Highland Ranch in Los Osos Valley was faced with the imminent threat of development. An application had been put forward for an agricultural cluster subdivision with the potential to create 18 rural home sites. Yet, the landowners, Don & Marilyn Warden, preferred to conserve the property in order to keep the land in the family and in agricultural production. They began looking for alternatives that would allow them to continue farming Highland Ranch while also earning a living.

The Warden Family eventually chose a voluntary conservation easement to keep the property as the working farm they love and to retain full ownership.

“This ranch has been in my family for over a hundred years. There is an attachment to that land. We’d like to see it protected for the future.”- Don Warden, Ranch Owner

The Land Conservancy’s agricultural conservation easement project forever protects Highland Ranch’s unique natural features while the property remains under the ownership and management of the Wardens. The community enjoys many long-term benefits from the project including locally grown food, healthy watersheds, and scenic views.

Highland Ranch Project Highlights

  • Conserves 535 acres of prime farmland and oak woodland
  • Extends the Warden Family’s historic legacy beginning in 1868
  • Protects the scenic corridor along Los Osos Valley
  • Safeguards headwaters of Warden Creek which flows to Morro Bay
  • Shelters large wildlife such as deer, mountain lion, bobcat, and raptors
  • Preserves unique and endemic plants along with exceptional coastal habitat

Project Funding Partners

  • National Guard Bureau / Camp San Luis Obispo
  • California Farmland Conservancy Program
  • Morro Bay National Estuary Program
  • Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust
  • Chevron Community Grant – Central Coast Region

Highland Ranch is truly a special place that represents The Land Conservancy’s commitment to family farmers and ranchers in San Luis Obispo County. Support more conservation projects like this by making a donation to the Conservation Impact Fund.