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Preserving Living Landscapes

blog land2Land Trust of Santa Cruz County raises $13.5 million to protect local land

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (LTSCC) recently announced the completion of its 18-month campaign to raise $13.5 million from community members to help protect vital habitats within the county, from the subtle sentience of the Cemex Redwood Forest, to the ancient seafloor of the Sandhills habitat, to the rolling Pajaro Hills east of Watsonville. In total, they have helped to preserve 9,900 acres of land because of the campaign.

In 2011, LTSCC partnered with The Nature Conservancy, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save the Redwoods League, and Sempervirens Fund, to form the Living Landscape Initiative (LLI), which assisted in protecting the recently acquired CEMEX Redwood forest.

The 8,500-acre CEMEX Redwood Forest north of Davenport was one of the largest unprotected habitats in Santa Cruz County until the LLI acquired the property from CEMEX, a concrete supply company. The forest is a key watershed for four creeks, one of which provides drinking water to Davenport, while another supplements the City of Santa Cruz with 20 percent of its potable water, according to LTSCC’s Outreach Manager Calah Pasley.

The Sandhill habitats between the San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley are some of the rarest ecosystems on the planet. With money raised through the LTSCC’s campaign, they have acquired 18 acres of what botanist Dr. Peter Raven calls the “Galapagos of Santa Cruz County.” The Sandhills are home to seven species of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth, and rainwater percolates through the area’s soil into the Santa Margarita Aquifer, which also provides drinking water to Santa Cruz.

Part of the LTSCC’s recently raised funds also helped to acquire the Star Creek Ranch, a 1,200-acre plot in the Pajaro Hills. The landscape is strewn with patches of wildflowers and groves of coastal Oaks and redwoods, and serves as a natural buffer between the Pajaro Valley and encroaching urban development.

Funds from the campaign will be matched almost three-to-one by other foundations and state and federal grants.

“This campaign was the first step in realizing our 2011 Conservation Blueprint, which calls for the protection of 50,000 priority acres in our county over 25 years,” says Pasley, adding that there are “10,000 acres down, and 40,000 to go.”

For more information, visit landtrustsantacruz.org and livinglandscapeinitiative.org.

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