Agreement Would Protect Land in Santa Barbara County (CA)

Santa Barbara, CA 4/10/2008: Thousands of acres of land in Santa Barbara County will be protected under an agreement announced today by The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization, with Plains Exploration & Production Co.(PXP), an oil company which is seeking to expand existing operations in the Santa Barbara Channel.

The agreement provides that PXP will transfer almost 3,900 acres of land it owns, including up to 200 acres located on the Gaviota Coast of Santa Barbara County and 3,700 acres inland near Lompoc, with the goal of eventually transferring that land to California state agencies for permanent protection, said Debra Geiler, TPL’s Southern California Director.

“The land could eventually have been developed for housing and other uses and we are happy that we can help protect it forever,” said Ms. Geiler. “TPL has worked for years to protect the spectacular landscape which makes Santa Barbara such a special place and this will be a great step toward fulfilling that goal.”

The land transfer to TPL by PXP is part of a larger proposal, in which PXP is seeking approval from Santa Barbara County and the state of California to expand operations into state-owned underwater lands in an area of the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge. The drilling would be done from an existing PXP well known as Platform Irene, which is already operating on federally-owned underwater land located next to the state-owned land.

Linda Krop, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center of Santa Barbara, the law firm that negotiated the larger proposal, said the agreement is “historic and unprecedented. It will ensure that PXP’s proposed drilling has a certain end date when that drilling will stop, and it will mean that PXP will phase out other oil and gas drilling operations offshore from Pt. Arguello and Pt. Conception, and onshore operations near Lompoc. It will also mean the preservation of thousands of acres of land.”

In addition to the land near Lompoc, PXP will turn over up to three parcels of land, involving up to 200 acres, on the Gaviota Coast, which extends for 40 mile west of Santa Barbara. TPL has been working in Gaviota since 1997. Encompassing fully half of Southern California’s remaining undeveloped coastline, the Gaviota Coast is a biologically rich convergence of northern and southern ecosystems. It offers habitat for 525 plant species and more than 40 animal species which are listed as threatened or endangered. Hikers, joggers, swimmers, surfers, and beachcombers love the coast’s rugged beaches, panoramic coastal hillsides, and mesas. Archaeological sites on the coast date back 9,000 years.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has helped to protect more than 4.2 million acres across the country and more than 6,000 acres in Santa Barbara County.