POST Transfers Rare Wetlands to Land Trust of Santa Cruz County for Permanent Protection
September 21, 2009
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) announced today that it has transferred 95 acres of rare wetlands and critical agricultural land in Watsonville to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (LTSCC) as part of an effort to protect that county’s largest expanse of freshwater wetlands.
Through a partnership with LTSCC and partial funding from The Nature Conservancy in January, POST provided $3.1 million and temporarily took title to the land at the heart of the Watsonville Sloughs so it could be saved. POST is now selling the land to LTSCC at cost.
“POST stepped in to rescue this project at the request of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County,” said POST Executive Vice President Walter T. Moore. “At the time, their public funding from the State Coastal Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Board was on hold due to California’s state bond funding freeze. Now that the money has been restored, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County can move forward with their initiative to preserve the Watsonville Sloughs and buy this land from POST for permanent protection.”
Located west of Highway 1, the land, formerly known as the Cheung Ranch, includes important wildlife habitats adjacent to some of the most valuable and fertile organic farmland in California. The site’s coastal wetlands help maintain water quality in Monterey Bay and provide unique habitats for a wide array of native plants and animals, including five federally listed species and 16 state-listed species of special concern.
POST’s transfer to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is part of LTSCC’s larger acquisition today of a total of 440 acres at Watsonville Sloughs. Adjacent to 350 acres of protected state and federal land, the transfer helps create an 800-acre expanse of uninterrupted open space in the sloughs. LTSCC will lease the agricultural portion (52 acres) of the land it is buying from POST to organic farmers, as it has done since January through a management agreement with POST. LTSCC will continue to use the lease revenue for its stewardship, restoration and education work.
POST paid for the 95-acre parcel in January through its donor-supported land fund as well as a $1.7 million grant from The Nature Conservancy funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to protect high-priority habitats on California’s Central Coast.
“We’re so grateful to POST and The Nature Conservancy for keeping this project alive and waiting out the nine-month funding delay with us,” said LTSCC Executive Director Terry Corwin. “The Watsonville Sloughs have long been considered a high priority for conservation. Now that bond funds are available again, we can complete this campaign to preserve essential wetlands, farm fields and water quality in our community.”