Bay Area Conservation Groups Invest $30 Million to Preserve Land in Santa Cruz Mountains

Bay Area Conservation Groups Invest $30 Million to Preserve Land in Santa Cruz Mountains

The Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) has announced an investment of $30 million to help preserve a parcel known as the CEMEX Redwoods, the largest expanse of unprotected redwoods and wildlife habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The purchase of the 8,532-acre property, the largest private landholding in Santa Cruz County, represents the first major project of the Living Landscape Initiative, a collaboration launched earlier this year by five Bay Area conservation groups — POST, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the Nature Conservancy, Save the Redwoods League, and the Sempervirens Fund. According to the San Jose Mercury News, funding for the purchase will be provided by POST ($16 million), the Gordon and Betty Moore and David and Lucile Packard foundations (a total of $8 million), the Sempervirens Fund ($5 million, including a $2.5 million low-interest loan from the Packard Foundation), and the Nature Conservancy ($500,000). In addition, the San Francisco Foundation is contributing $150,000 toward the purchase.

The Mercury News reports that, after the deal is closed, the groups involved in the acquisition will conduct biological surveys of the property and secure a conservation easement for the land so as to provide permanent protection for its old-growth redwoods and wildlife habitat. In the project's final phase, the groups will look to sell the property to a private party pursuant to a sustainable working forest agreement that guarantees the continued health of the parcel and provides local tax revenues and jobs.

The deal comes at a time when the California parks department is planning to close some seventy state parks and is refusing to acquire any new land. According to Mercury News, the property — which until last year was owned by CEMEX, one of the world's largest suppliers of building materials — could have accommodated up to sixty-nine luxury homes had it been sold to developers.

"With the purchase of CEMEX Redwoods, the initiative is living up to its great promise," said Moore Foundation president Steve McCormick. "It's an innovative, exciting collaboration that will continue to deliver great conservation results in and around Silicon Valley for years to come."