920 Acres Protected on Big Sur Coast

SAN FRANCISCO, 2/25/02-The U.S. Forest Service announced today its public acquisition of 920 acres the most beloved and photographed section of the Big Sur Coast-the Bixby Ocean Ranch. The ranch, 13 miles south of Carmel, would have been split into nine separate properties and sold for development if it was not purchased last August by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL). TPL purchased this crown jewel of the Big Sur Coast, easily identified by the historic Bixby Bridge on Highway 1, to protect it from looming development and safeguard its sweeping views, rocky shoreline, and magnificent rolling hills for public enjoyment and critical wildlife habitat. Since October 2000, TPL kept the ranch off the market and worked to secure funding for the public purchase of the ranch by the USDA Forest Service. The Forest Service’s purchase of the ranch, which was at one time owned by Allen Funt of Candid Camera fame, creates an 11-mile stretch of permanently protected coastline beginning at the Bixby Bridge and extending south through Andrew Molera State Park. An additional 306 acres of the Bixby Ocean Ranch are proposed for acquisition later this year. TPL is leading a $2 million private fundraising effort to complete the acquisition of the entire 1,226-acre ranch property.

“The protection of the Bixby Ocean Ranch as the Big Sur Coast’s most recognized property is conservation on a national scale benefiting the millions of people who visit the coast now and for generations to come. The property, once it is open to the public, will provide opportunities for enjoyment of scenic, historical, and scientific values along the Big Sur Coast. Protecting this important national landscape is a top priority,” says U.S. Congressman Sam Farr.

U.S. Congressman Sam Farr, a longtime advocate for the protection of the Big Sur Coast, has been critical to the protection of thousands of acres over the years. He supported the appropriation of federal Land and Water Conservation Fund monies for the Bixby Ocean Ranch purchase by the USDA Forest Service.

“The Bixby Ocean Ranch property offers a splendid location to interpret the natural and cultural history of this unique area,” said Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Jeanine Derby. “One concept we hope to explore with the public is a way of melding science with the arts to help enhance people’s experience, understanding, and appreciation for the Big Sur coast. Perhaps establishment of a local foundation or some similar approach would be appropriate. The existing buildings on the property, including two houses and a barn, could help facilitate this goal,” she added. Derby also said that the Forest Service wants to ensure that recreation activities on the Bixby Ocean Ranch property are compatible with the area’s scientific, historic, and aesthetic values.

“The Bixby Ocean Ranch has come to symbolize the pristine, majestic beauty of Calfiornia’s Big Sur Coast in the national imagination and we must complete its protection,” says Debra Geiler, Senior Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land. “We still need $2 million to complete the public purchase of the remaining 306 acres,” continued Geiler. “We are very grateful for the support the protection of this national treasure has already received including $5 million granted from the Coastal Conservancy, in addition to federal Land and Water Conservation Fund monies, and a low-interest bridge loan from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. We have also received a generous $2.5 million gift from an anonymous donor. We are especially grateful for the support of Congressman Sam Farr, state Senator Bruce McPherson, and Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Fred Keeley both in Congress and the state Legislature.”

Senator McPherson and Assemblyman Keeley co-authored a Member’s Request for $5 million that was allocated to the California Coastal Conservancy for the Bixby Ocean Ranch purchase.

Images of the Bixby Ocean Ranch with its stunning views of the Bixby Bridge, pristine beaches, and coastal bluffs are used in various national and international advertisements for cars, credit cards, and airlines. In addition to its photogenic qualities, the ranch, which sits at the northern gateway to the Big Sur Coast, is home to redwood groves, freshwater springs, creeks, and rare and extensive grasslands that support several threatened animal species.

The Forest Service is currently involved in a public process to revise the Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) for Los Padres National Forest. The Bixby property, along with other acquired lands within the Big Sur Scenic Management Area, will be addressed and zoned for appropriate access and uses as part of the revised Forest Plan. A draft Environmental Impact Statement will be released for public review and comment in late 2002 and a final plan is expected in late 2003.

Los Padres National Forest spans some 1.75 million acres from Interstate 5 and eastern Ventura County to the Carmel Valley area. The forest encompasses some of the most ruggedly beautiful landscapes to be found anywhere in California. The forest is managed to sustain its very productive watersheds, its outstanding scenery and recreation values, and its diverse ecosystems, including habitat for 26 listed threatened and endangered plant and animal species. Los Padres also contains internationally recognized Native American rock art. The Big Sur Coast is within the Monterey Ranger District, one of five ranger districts within Los Padres National Forest. Headquarters for the Monterey Ranger District is in King City. The forest headquarters is in Goleta. TPL is a national land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people as parks, greenways, wilderness areas and natural, historic and cultural resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide. For more than 20 years, TPL has worked with the Big Sur Land Trust and other organizations to protect more than 6,000 acres of California’s pristine Big Sur coastline.