Nature Conservancy Purchases Cojo-Jalama Ranch
Source: Gaviota Coast Conservancy
In a stunning development, The Nature Conservancy has announced that it has acquired the 24,000 acre Cojo-Jalama Ranch, aka Bixby Ranch. Cojo-Jalama Ranch surrounds Point Conception extending from Jalama County Park to near the western boundary of Hollister Ranch.
Ownership by The Nature Conservancy eliminates threats of the conversion of this historic property for residential development, oil extraction or mineral development. “Cojo-Jalama Ranch is the Crown Jewel of the Gaviota Coast” exclaimed Gaviota Coast Conservancy President Michael S. Brown. “Preservation of the Cojo-Jalama Ranch has long been one of the GCC’s leading goals. Cojo-Jalama is the largest privately owned ranch on the Gaviota Coast, and has faced significant development threats in the past.”
The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of Bixby Ranch was made possible by a single donation of $165,000,000 by Jack and Laura Dangermond, whose company played a major role in developing GIS methodologies. “The generosity of people like the Dangermonds have played a critical role in preservation of the Gaviota Coast and other threatened coastal lands” explained Phil McKenna, GCC Past President and Board member. “GCC applauds their vision and generosity, and invites others to support GCC’s ongoing work to preserve our precious coastline.”
The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is the only non-governmental organization focused exclusively on the Gaviota Coast. Spanning 76 miles of coastline from Coal Oil Point in Goleta to Point Sal west of Santa Maria, the Gaviota Coast was studied to be a National Seashore in the early 2000’s. The National Park Service found that while the visual, biological and recreational resources made the Gaviota Coast suitable as a National Seashore, but opposition from the George W. Bush Administration and landowners made it infeasible. The 2004 Report suggested local efforts should be undertaken to protect and preserve the Gaviota Coast.
Cojo-Jalama was the site of a proposed LNG plant in the 1970’s, which led to a pitched battle lasting for years. The lands surrounding Point Conception were occupied by protesting Chumash from June 1978 to March 1979 who were dedicated to protecting the area’s spiritual significance as the “Western Gate” in their culture. The LNG plant was never built.
Cojo-Jalama was subject to a set of Air Force easements restricting uses and development along the western edge of the ranch in designated “debris zones” that would be cleared of all people to accommodate Space Shuttle launches in the 1980’s. After the Challenger shuttle disaster, the program was curtailed and VAFB never launched a shuttle.
In 2007, Cojo-Jalama was purchased by Baupost Group, a Boston hedge fund, for the then-extraordinary price of $135,000,000. Shortly after that, the 2008 Recession deflated the value of the land, and while many rumors of different development projects circulated, no substantial development projects were formally proposed. Controversy surrounded Cojo-Jalama when GCC and others uncovered illegal destruction of habitat for the endangered Gaviota Tarplant, leading to a protracted enforcement effort by the Coastal Commission, which recently adopted an enforcement and Restoration Order, finally resolving the violations. Baupost agreed to restore over 500 acres of habitat, pay $500,000 in fines to the Commission’s enforcement account, and offer to donate 36 acres of land adjacent to Jalama County Park to the Santa Barbara County Parks Department.
GCC has closely monitored Cojo-Jalama for decades, as it is among the most significant ranches on the Gaviota Coast. GCC applauds The Nature Conservancy’s acquisition of the property, and expects this will eventually result in public access to Point Conception and allow the public to enjoy the 1985-era County recreational use easements on parcels near Point Conception.
Michael S. Brown, GCC’s President stated: “Preservation of Cojo-Jalama Ranch is an enormous achievement. While numerous development schemes have been put forward over the last few decades, none have succeeded. Conservation ownership with public access is the best possible outcome we could imagine. We look forward to working with The Nature Conservancy as they develop their management, restoration and access plans for Cojo-Jalama Ranch. This is one of the crown jewels on the Gaviota Coast.”
November 13, 2017: Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres