Agreement Protects San Luis Obispo Land (CA)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, 7/11/01 — The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program announced today TPL’s agreement to buy and protect the 580-acre Hollister Peak Ranch located on the banks of Chorro Creek along Highway 1 between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. The ranch includes critical Morro Bay watershed lands and floodplains as well as the lower foothills of the striking local landmark, Hollister Peak. TPL signed an option agreement with a private landowner to keep the ranch off the market and safe from potential development until June 2002 while funds for public purchase are secured.

“The purchase and restoration of Hollister Peak Ranch is critical to the health and beauty of Morro Bay and its surrounding communities. We are committed to working with all our partners on the local, state, and federal level to protect this remarkable resource,” says Margaret Eadington, Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land. The purchase of Hollister Peak Ranch is part of a larger effort to protect and restore Chorro Creek, fundamental to the long-term health and productivity of the bay. Chorro Creek is the estuary’s largest freshwater source and important habitat for endangered steelhead and other species of special concern. This acquisition will then leave only a few unprotected properties along Chorro Creek under consideration for future acquisition.

“Hollister peak, one of the magnificent Nine Morros, is key to safekeeping the Central Coast’s unique character for future generations to appreciate. This multi-partner acquisition is vitally important for preservation of our natural heritage and is a testament to the Herculean efforts of the Trust for Public Land and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. Kudos go to all involved,” said Senator Jack O’Connell.

The acquisition and restoration of Chorro Creek are essential to enhancing the water quality and wildlife habitat quality of Morro Bay. As one of the largest stopovers for migratory birds along the Pacific flyway and because of the unusual high diversity of indigenous plants and animals, Morro Bay was established as California’s first state estuary in 1994 and then in 1995, it was also accepted into the National Estuary Program. Subsequently, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program developed a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan to protect and restore the bay’s sensitive wetland and riparian habitat. The plan emphasizes slowing sedimentation of the bay and reestablishing healthy steelhead trout habitat in Chorro Creek. Hollister Peak Ranch is well suited for sediment control and restoring riparian and freshwater wetlands habitats due to its large size and location. In addition to the clear environmental benefits, the acquisition protects a critical viewshed along the Highway One corridor.

TPL is working to secure public funding for the state’s eventual purchase of the ranch. After purchase, an additional $1,200,000 is needed for the habitat restoration effort. TPL has applied for many grants, though currently all funding is pending. The potential funding and protection partners include the California Department of Fish & Game, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the State Coastal Conservancy, the California Resources Agency, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, and the City of Morro Bay.

Once funding is in place TPL will most likely transfer the property to the Department of Fish & Game to be protected and restored as open space and wildlife habitat upstream of the 2,700-acre Morro Bay State Park. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program will continue the work of restoring the creek and floodplain after the public purchase.

“This vital first step toward the purchase of this critical watershed protects endangered species, preserves the Central Coast’s natural beauty and Morro Bay’s water quality,” says Mike Multari of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.

“Protecting the beautiful landscapes around Morro Bay and elsewhere on the Central Coast is good for the environment and good for business,” says state Assemblyman Abel Maldonado (R-33). “The tourist industry on the Central Coast thrives on the protection of our spectacular natural resources.”

TPL, a nonprofit land conservation organization headquartered in San Francisco, has protected thousands of acres along California’s Central Coast and is currently working to protect Morro Bay by acquiring properties along Chorro and Los Osos Creeks and partnering to create the Los Osos Greenbelt with the Morro Estuary Greenbelt Alliance and The Partners for the Conservation of the Los Osos Coastal Dunes.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is a nonprofit land conservation organization that works to conserve land for people as parks, gardens, playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected thousands of acres along California’s central coast including the 355-acre Estero Bay property also in San Luis Obispo County and the 7,000-acre Coast Dairies property in Santa Cruz County.