Mountain Lion Blog California lemon grove. Photo © Ian Shive

Recipe for Protection: Lemons and Lions

We're encouraging farming along the Santa Clara River in southern California to protect mountain lion habitat, limit development and bring you boutique crops. Mmmm!

Boutique Crops Help Mountain Lions Thrive

Saving the Santa Clara River Valley’s fruit farms isn’t just about having fresh, delicious, local fruit; it’s also about supporting wildlife habitats that keep mountain lions off urban streets. Without local farms dotting the Santa Clara River’s banks, the area would be open to commercial and residential development. These developers would most likely try to control the flood-prone area with levees and dams, which would destroy critical ecosystems, including mountain lion habitat. This type of development is what drives mountain lions into cities!

Free Flowing

Fruit orchards thrive in floods. And flooding them supports the native habitats that keep local ecosystems intact—and that keep lions in the hills. The Santa Clara River is the last free-flowing river in southern California, and it harbors more threatened species than all of Yosemite. It’s also the ninth most valuable U.S. county for agricultural production. And it’s in Los Angeles’s backyard.

Working with Farmers

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with food producers in California and around the world to find ways to produce food that benefits both people and nature. Along the Santa Clara River, the Conservancy has purchased ecologically critical acres from valley farmers, helping them fund experiments with boutique crops that fetch higher prices on the open market and can also stand up to changing weather patterns. The Conservancy’s work in the Santa Clara River Valley also includes partnering with local farmers on valley-wide policies (e.g., flood plans) that simultaneously help protect animal habitats and sustain farming revenues.

“I love this river. It’s the last best hope for so many species,” explains EJ Remson, the Conservancy’s senior program director. “I love the puzzle of it. For so many years farming depended on the Santa Clara, and now the river depends on them.”

Buy Local

The next time you shop for avocados and fruit, look for the tiny stickers on them and the bin signs that identify their origin. When you see Ventura County, rest easy knowing you’re supporting the last wild southern California freshwater supply and the many threatened species that depend on it.