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POST Protects Nearly 1,000 Acres in Santa Cruz Mountains

Three properties — two in La Honda and one in Pescadero — are saved from development as part of Heart of the Redwoods Campaign.

POST Protects Nearly 1,000 Acres in Santa Cruz Mountains

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) kicked off the new year by announcing the purchase of three key properties within the Santa Cruz Mountains through its Heart of the Redwoods Campaign. Two properties are in La Honda, and one is near Pescadero.

Together they total 991 acres and are the latest result of POST’s commitment to preserving open lands in and around Silicon Valley, including threatened redwood forests, wildlife habitat and watershed land within the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Alpine Ranch, in La Honda

True to its name, 353-acre Alpine Ranch in La Honda features forested hillsides including abundant redwoods. Bordered by Pescadero Creek and Sam McDonald county parks, the property contains more than a mile of tributaries to Pescadero Creek and a small pond. POST purchased the land on December 19 for $5 million. The property includes habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including steelhead trout, California red-legged frog, San Francisco garter snake and San Mateo woolly sunflower.

Without POST protection, the property could have been carved up into at least nine private luxury ranchettes. Fortunately, seller Deborah Ettinger believed the time was right to put the property into permanent protection and turned to POST. “When I bought Alpine Ranch [in 1975], it was the beauty of the land and its great expanse that inspired love at first sight. I never felt like I was its owner—I was its caretaker. The most important thing to me was to keep the ranch intact. The transfer into POST’s care is the right thing at the right time.”

Butano Crest East and West, near Pescadero

Butano Crest East and Butano Crest West near Pescadero comprise 320 acres of redwood forest, chaparral and grassland that have remained largely isolated due to their remote location and limited access. In addition to old-growth redwoods, the property includes areas of Santa Cruz cypress and Anderson’s Manzanita.

POST purchased the two parcels on December 14 for $1.32 million from private landowners. The lands are part of the Pescadero Creek watershed and adjacent to Butano State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park. The properties contain habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet sea bird, which nests only in tall coastal trees with snags and broad, high branches such as redwoods.

Driscoll Orchards, in La Honda

Immediately off Highway 84 sits Driscoll Orchards, a 318-acre property POST purchased on December 14 for $7.25 million from the Driscoll family. The purchase was made possible in part by a $1 million grant from the Living Landscape Initiative, a collaboration of five leading land trusts including POST with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation via Resources Legacy Fund. The Packard Foundation also provided POST with a $6.2 million loan toward the purchase.

The property includes a small apple orchard, cattle grazing and the Driscoll Ranch event center. The landscape contains a mix of low-lying oak forest, sloping grassland, coastal scrub, and a small but spectacular redwood grove. A portion of San Gregorio Creek with populations of rainbow trout and Coho salmon also runs through the property.

The land was once part of the larger Driscoll Ranch complex protected by POST in 2002. That acquisition of 3,681 acres is now part of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, which will likely incorporate Driscoll Orchards into the preserve as well. “My dad’s goal was always to keep this property as open space,” said Rudy Driscoll Jr. “That’s why we decided to sell to POST. It’s wonderful now to see my dad’s dream completed.”

Heart of the Redwoods Protection

POST acquired these three properties through its ongoing Heart of the Redwoods Campaign. Launched at the end of 2011, the five-year effort is raising funds to protect 20,000 acres of the last remaining redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. To date, POST has saved 9,700 acres of local redwoods lands, including these latest acquisitions, through the campaign.

 “These three properties are critical additions to POST’s Heart of the Redwoods Campaign,” said POST President Walter T. Moore. “Development and subdivision pose a serious threat not only to the health and longevity of our coastal redwood forests, but to our entire region’s ecosystem. If we can connect isolated islands of protected open space into a resilient network of open lands, we will be able to secure and create a vibrant ecosystem for Silicon Valley.”

For more information about POST and its ongoing work to save threatened redwood landscapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, please visit  www.openspacetrust.org/redwoods.

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