Throwback Thursday: Ranch acquisition links California coastal preserves

The Big Sur Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy secured the view from one of the most famous sections of California’s scenic coastal Highway 1 and linked 13 parks and preserves with their $37 million purchase in May of the 9,898-acre Palo Corona Ranch.

By Corey Himrod August 18

As the Land Trust Alliance celebrates 40 years (and counting!) of private land conservation, we’re dedicating Throw-Back Thursdays (#TBT) to looking back at past conservation victories and seeing what those victories look like today.

The story below is from the Summer 2002 issue of Exchange: The Journal of the Land Trust Alliance.

The property begins about a block south of Carmel, and contains old-growth redwood forests, oak woodlands and coastal terrace. It connects an additional 10,000 acres of parks and preserves owned by the Big Sur Land Trust, the State of California and Monterey County as well as the U.S. Forest Service’s 160,000-acre Ventana Wilderness.

“The Palo Corona Ranch is the gateway to Big Sur. The purchase leverages far more landscape conservation and trail connections by connecting a significantly larger landscape,” explained The Big Sur Land Trust executive director Corey Brown.

The two nonprofits are coordinating with adjacent landowners on a comprehensive management plan. The Nature Conservancy and the Big Sur Land Trust plan eventually to transfer most of the property to the state and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park.

Governor Gray Davis committed $32 million for the purchase and the Regional Park District committed $5 million. The Nature Conservancy and the Big Sur Land Trust are raising a still-to-be-determined sum for the long-term conservation management of the ranch. The two groups financed the purchase primarily through interim loans.

Both organizations brought essential skills to complete the transaction, noted Mr. Brown.

“Big Sur Land Trust has local knowledge and investment in the community, and we’re familiar with the property because we’ve pursued it for a number of years. We also have expertise in securing state funding. The Nature Conservancy brought tremendous expertise in negotiating complex acquisitions and developing financing. They also have the scientific knowledge for habitat planning on a landscape level.” •

Where are we in 2022?

As noted by Big Sur Land Trust, the purchase of the nearly 10,000-acre Palo Corona Ranch was the culmination of an eight-year effort and a partnership with the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and other public agencies. However, once the purchase was complete, what happened next?

The northern 4,350 acres of the property was used to create Palo Corona Regional Park, the largest land conservation project in Monterey County history and an invaluable link connecting previously fragmented habitats. From the MPRPD website:

The Park stretches for about 10 miles in length, across more than 4,500 sprawling acres of rugged, spectacular country that boasts an extraordinary mix of ecosystems and wildlife species… The Park connects 9 previously protected conservation properties preserved for their biological, recreation and scenic values, including: Garrapata State Park, Joshua Creek Ecological Reserve, Mitteldorf Preserve, Glen Deven Ranch, Point Lobos State Reserve, Santa Lucia Conservancy lands, and the Ventana Wilderness.

The park is home to more than 500 species of plants — its grassland ecosystem supports some of the highest numbers of individual grass and wildflower species found anywhere along California’s central coast. Meanwhile, the southern 5,500 acres is now part of the Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve, which along with Palo Corona Regional Park, connects to the Los Padres National Forest and Ventana Wilderness — this wilderness area includes the Sisquoc Condor Sanctuary, the oldest designated sanctuary for the endangered California condor in the United States.

Read the original article.