Imagine traveling west out of Templeton, ocean-bound on Highway 46. You pass housing developments, ranchettes, and eventually a few wineries.
As you approach the crest of the mountains and drive through a pass that cuts through the Santa Lucia range, the wineries give way to open range and wild oak woodlands.
Suddenly, the Pacific Ocean comes into view. Oak-studded hills cascade into the ocean, Morro Rock stands out in the distance, and Point Sal drops into the sea.
Do you notice the cattle quietly grazing in an open meadow; a hawk perched in a tall Sycamore tree? Or do you imagine dozens of houses connected by freshly-paved driveways, with power lines obscuring the ocean view and trimmed lawns in place of open range?
Believe it or not, you have a choice. A choice between these opposing, but distinctly possible, futures for Highway 46 West. This landscape is iconic and historic, but that doesn’t mean it’s forever. Unless we act now, a very different view may be in store for SLO County.
Let’s look back at that landscape. It may be hard to imagine that these hills are already fully developed. Can you see it? They aren’t covered in condominiums or sprawling vacation rentals, but this land is already home to thousands of species of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals; not to mention the steelhead trout swimming up the streams that flow to Cayucos below.
This land belongs to the mother bobcat, raising her young. To the golden eagle perched in a golden Sycamore. To the woodpecker carefully storing acorns in an ancient oak tree. Many more homes will be made here as climate change forces California’s wildlife to migrate north.
In fact, 46 West represents the southern edge of a crucial wildlife corridor, stretching from Cerro Alto to Big Sur. We have the opportunity now to protect these homes, to make sure that the mother bobcat still has a place to raise her young and the golden eagle can still leave its perch to soar through clean skies.