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Five Leading Conservation Groups Launch “Living Landscape Initiative” for Silicon Valley Region

March 10, 2011

Collaboration to Create and Maintain Vibrant and Sustainable Natural Lands in the Heart of Coastal California—Moore and Packard Foundations Back Effort with Major Support.

A group of five leading conservation organizations are collaborating to achieve critical large-scale land protection goals in the heart of coastal California. The new effort, called the Living Landscape Initiative, includes the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, The Nature Conservancy, Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), Save the Redwoods League and Sempervirens Fund. Sacramento-based Resources Legacy Fund helped launch the effort using major support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The goal of the Initiative is to preserve and protect 80,000 acres over the next 20 years in four key areas in and around Silicon Valley: Coastal Lands, the Redwood Heartland, the Pajaro River Corridor, and other Essential Links. To attract matching funds from both the public and private sectors, the Moore Foundation has put forth a $15 million 3-to-1 challenge grant for land acquisition and stewardship over the next three years.

“We’re at a critical time for translating scientific knowledge into impact at a strategic, regional scale—ensuring a human connection to our surroundings, creating linkages for wildlife, and conserving essential plant and animal habitats,” said Steve McCormick, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “I am extremely pleased to direct the Foundation’s resources to this collaborative.”

“The time to act is now. We understand more than ever how important healthy living landscapes are to the social and economic future of the Bay Area,” said Julie Packard, trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “Strategic, science-based and collaborative land conservation will let ecosystems as well as local communities thrive in a connected and sustainable manner. The Living Landscape Initiative provides a powerful model to make immediate and significant progress.”

The vision of the Initiative is to create a sustainable living landscape for local communities. Such a landscape would provide ongoing natural benefits to residents such as clean air and clean water, dramatic beauty, broad biodiversity, productive agricultural and working lands, and recreational opportunities.

For decades, these benefits have attracted an educated work force to Silicon Valley and enhanced quality of life in the region. Now, however, we risk losing these benefits due to increasingly significant threats to our surrounding landscape, including population growth and the accelerating effects of climate change.

“The Living Landscape Initiative is a strong example of how protecting key habitat and wildlife linkages can help both people and nature thrive,” said Mike Sweeney, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, California. “This is critical to the social, economic and natural prosperity of the region and to the plants and animals that rely on the land to survive. As our climate changes, protection of large, intact landscapes is essential for allowing human and natural communities to adapt.”

Four Critical Areas of Concern

The Initiative’s work will stretch from Mount Hamilton, along the ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains and across rolling ranchlands out to ocean wetlands. The Initiative focuses on four areas of concern:

  • Coastal Lands, which in our region comprise one of the only rural and accessible coastlines within a major metropolitan area;

  • Redwood Heartland, including rare, lush forests set aside as both parks and working forest lands;

  • Pajaro River Corridor, rich in wildlife, water, agriculture and ranching;

  • Essential Links, providing much-needed connections between protected properties so they are part of a strong, resilient network of natural lands.

“Setting a large-scale vision for how nature can survive in the Silicon Valley region is the only way we can secure a viable, sustainable future for the diversity of life here,” said Audrey Rust, president of POST. “There is a window of opportunity to get this work done now. We must do right by the land and seize that chance before it’s too late.”

Working Together to Accomplish More

The organizations within the Initiative have worked together on previous occasions, but typically in a case-by-case fashion. “By coordinating our efforts more closely, we can go much further than any one group acting alone,” said Rust. “We can leverage our individual strengths, bring all our resources to bear to meet urgent conservation goals, and ensure the permanence of our shared land-saving work so it delivers maximum benefits to the communities we serve.”

Reed Holderman, executive director of Sempervirens Fund, agreed. “Big things happen when people and organizations work together. We are excited to participate in the Living Landscape Initiative with our land trust colleagues because we will do more land conservation and share more information as a result of this historic partnership.”

Other groups taking part were pleased that the Initiative puts a strong emphasis on lands and projects that connect directly to their existing missions.

“Save the Redwoods League is honored to be part of a prestigious group of conservation organizations committed to this Initiative,” said Ruskin K. Hartley, executive director of Save the Redwoods League. “The Initiative will protect the area’s unique natural benefits and beauty, including 30,000 acres of magnificent redwood forests. With only 5 percent of old-growth redwoods still standing, we must work diligently to protect these forests into the future.”

“We joined the Initiative because we believe that a healthy natural world is critical to the economic health of Santa Cruz County,” said Terry Corwin, executive director of the Land Trust for Santa Cruz County. “All of Santa Cruz County is included within the Initiative’s area of interest, and as the local land trust in the county we are excited to be involved in how our county’s land and water are protected.”

About the Living Landscape Initiative

The Living Landscape Initiative is a collaborative effort among five land conservation organizations in and around Silicon Valley to create and maintain a vibrant and sustainable living landscape in the heart of coastal California. Through the partners’ expertise and shared focus on a healthy ecosystem, the Living Landscape Initiative exists to protect landscapes and inspire a renewed connection to the land. The Initiative seeks to benefit local communities with an environment that supports quality of life through clean air and water, landscape preservation, farms and working landscapes, habitat protection, biodiversity, natural aesthetics, recreational access and economic vibrancy in the region.

To learn more, visit http://www.livinglandscapeinitiative.org.

Press Contacts

Stephen Slade, Deputy Director
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
Tel: (831) 429-6116
Email: stephen.slade@landtrustsantacruz.org
www.landtrustsantacruz.org

Kathleen Goldstein
The Nature Conservancy
Tel: (202) 841-0295
Email: kgoldstein@greenfishcommunications.com
www.nature.org

Nina Nowak, Director of Communications
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST)
Tel: (650) 854-7696, x.306
Email: nnowak@openspacetrust.org
www.openspacetrust.org

Jennifer Benito, Director of Outreach
Save the Redwoods League
Tel: (415) 820-5814
Email: jbenito@savetheredwoods.org
www.savetheredwoods.org

Reed Holderman, Executive Director
Sempervirens Fund
Tel: (650) 949-1453 or cell (510) 610-0517
Email: rholderman@sempervirens.org
www.sempervirens.org

Genny Biggs, Communications Manager
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Tel: (650) 213-3021
Email: genny.biggs@moore.org
www.moore.org

Minna Jung, Communications Director
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Tel: (650) 917-7247
Email: mjung@packard.org
www.packard.org