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Saving the last perfect place in California

A living laboratory for scientists and conservationists. A muse for everyone that comes upon it.

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There’s no place like it on Earth. Eight miles of pristine southern California coastline. Nearly 25,000 acres of grassland, oak and cypress forests, chaparral and coastal scrub. It’s been referred to as “the last perfect place in California.”

Cold water currents of the northern Pacific collide with warmer waters of the Santa Barbara Channel to create a rich and diverse habitat unlike any other in the state.

© Peter Floyd

Fourteen endangered species call the area home. Coyote stroll the beach, seals play in the surf, and osprey soar in the sky above as whales breach in the sea below.

Apart from being largely isolated from human contact, the land at Point Conception in Santa Barbara County will remain for eternity as it has for eons—a beautiful landscape of untouched California. The Nature Conservancy has purchased this land thanks to Jack and Laura Dangermond, philanthropists, conservationists, and co-founders of Esri, who made a transformative and timely philanthropic gift of $165 million to the organization. This private donation is the single largest philanthropic gift in the Conservancy’s history.

A prominent coastal feature

Point Conception is California’s landmark of great historical significance across Native American, Spanish, and American time periods.

Protecting California’s last wild place

Acquiring and protecting this “crown-jewel” coastal property has been a top conservation priority for decades. Under the Conservancy's protection, it will never get developed.

Visible from space as the exact point on the coast where California bends inward, this iconic piece of California will be named The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, and join the portfolio of protected lands owned and managed by the Conservancy. Collaborating with key partners and stakeholders, the Conservancy will embark on an 18-month planning process to understand all that is contained on the 25,000 acres, how to bring it into balance and protect the various resources from ecological, cultural, and historical perspectives, and to develop a comprehensive plan that will shape the long-term use and management of the new preserve. In the meantime, it will remain a private working cattle ranch.

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A beacon for education and scientific research

For the last 100 years, the site has been home to a small working ranch. Aside from the grazing cattle, Southern California’s last and largest intact coastal property has remained completely wild and untouched by development.

The land had been in the Bixby family since Fred J. Bixby bought it in 1913. The footprint is so light, it’s where you understand what California was all about. Located where the cold-water currents of the northern Pacific collide with the warmer waters of the Santa Barbara channel, the property’s unique location makes for a very rare opportunity to study the convergence of four unique eco-regions and seven habitats in one place. Most of us will never see such wild ecosystems intact and uniquely positioned in one singular property, uninterrupted from ocean to mountain crest.

Cultural history

The land is home to 39 endangered species, 19 species of concern, and a rare cultural legacy.

A key area for connectivity

It is surrounded by 100+ acres of protected coastal lands, including Vandenberg Air Force Base and Gaviota State Beach, and sits adjacent to the Point Conception Marine Reserve.

Ocean values

Unique habitat that occurs in this mix of waters from northern Pacific and the Santa Barbara channel creates a rich marine life off the coast of this property.

The opportunities for discovery, research, and protection are endless. The land will give scientists a rare look at how wildlife and natural systems adapt unfettered to climate change, sea level rise, wildlife passages, and other pressing issues for California and the world. It also presents opportunities to develop a world-class research and education enterprise.

The opportunities for discovery, research, and protection are vast at this property. We’re able to study how California’s cultural and natural history co-evolved for millennia.

Mark Reynolds, Senior Scientist at the Conservancy

Unlocking solutions to big conservation problems

With endless opportunities for conservation, archaeological preservation, research, and education, The Conservancy intends to manage the property in its natural state, preserving untouched connected areas for wildlife to roam, plants to grow, and marine wildlife to thrive.

© Matthew Davis

The Nature Conservancy has plans for managed public access focused on efforts to use the property as a center for research, discovery, and education that inspire the public about the importance of protecting our natural world.

Planning for the Preserve is the next step. The Conservancy wants to ensure the permanent protection of the last-of-it- kind resource, while creating research, environmental education and public benefit programs that allow the Conservancy to use this natural area for its highest and best use.

That will take some time. The land remains private and will continue to operate as a private cattle ranch during the course of the planning process. There are tremendously exciting opportunities associated with this project which will require appropriate planning and financing. The Conservancy asks for the public of California’s support and patience during this important process.

 

Hero photo: © Ian Boyle

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