Source: The Land Trust
The Land Trust reports that in 2021, more than 4,000 acres were conserved. For the organization, this is the single biggest year in conserved acreage in the last decade—for a total of 31,511 protected acres in its history. Even in a turbulent year, there are several more projects in progress and the Land Trust expects to carry this momentum into 2022.
The implementation of the Land Trust’s 5-year strategic plan has served as the organization’s North Star in building partnerships, identifying key projects, and finding ways to innovate community land conservation. This year, projects like Yellow Foxtrot, Jalama Canyon Ranch, and most recently, the Tranquillon Conservation Project, protected habitat for endangered species, rare habitats, renewable energy, and the livelihoods of farm and ranch families throughout Santa Barbara County. In a year marked by an ongoing pandemic and natural disasters like drought and the Alisal Fire, the Land Trust has leveraged unprecedented opportunities for beneficial land conservation to address growing community concern for climate change and equity.
The Alisal Fire burned more than 17,000 acres in a week, including much of the Arroyo Hondo Preserve, a community resource owned and operated by the Land Trust. While preserve staff and historic structures are safe and unharmed, the damage underlined the urgency of strategically conserving land. “COVID really reminded people how important it is to get outside. And this fire reminded us how vulnerable we are and how important it is to have places like this to create a natural buffer in our land,” said Land Trust executive director Meredith Hendricks. The access roads and patchwork of national forest, agricultural, and conserved open space created buffer zones that allowed fire crews to protect the homes of more than 800 people.
Strategically conserving land remains a top priority of the Land Trust in support of the county, state, and federal commitments to achieve 30×30—conserving 30% of U.S. land, inland freshwater, and oceans by 2030 for a more just and resilient climate and economy for present and future generations. For local leaders like Senator Monique Limón, conserving city, county, and state parks are a practical way to invest in underserved communities and raise quality of life for all. “I applaud the work Land Trust continues to achieve,” said Senator Limón, “we are fortunate to have them in our district conserving surrounding land and local ecosystems while reminding us that preserving, protecting, and providing access to public land for future generations is essential.”
With this in mind, the Land Trust has no plans to slow down. The organization continues to build capacity to meet opportunities to conserve land that protects urban areas from fire, nourishes people and wildlife through open space and local food, and actively supports farm and ranch families. For Hendricks, “land conservation plays an important role in building Santa Barbara County’s equity and climate resilience and we are beyond excited about the sheer volume and potential of the work ahead.”