Easement Will Protect 3,000 Acres in Santa Ynez Valley (CA)

Santa Ynez, CA, 2/9/2009: Nearly 3,000 acres of natural lands in the foothills of the San Rafael Wilderness Area will be protected permanently with the finalization of a conservation easement on the Midland School property in the Santa Ynez Valley. For about two years, The Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit organization, the local Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and Midland School have been seeking state grants and local donations to bring to fruition a permanent conservation strategy for Midland School property. The conservation easement was finalized and recorded on the last business day of 2008.

The easement area covers 2,727 acres of biologically diverse landscape and habitat types, including Valley oak savannah, blue oak woodlands, gray pine forest, gentle slopes of coastal sage scrub and the wildlife habitats associated with Alamo Pintado Creek and Maple Creek.

“The conservation easement will protect this important scenic, open space by preventing inappropriate future subdivision and development that would negatively impact the site’s important natural resources” stated Debra Geiler, Director of TPL Southern California. “Agricultural use, including a cattle grazing lease and school farm will not be affected by the easement and will continue.”

The Midland property is bordered to the northeast by the San Rafael Wilderness Area, an expansive area of protected open space with diverse habitat types and 125 miles of designated trails. The Sedgwick Reserve, owned and managed by UC Santa Barbara as part of the Natural Reserve System, is immediately southeast of Midland.

According to Michael Feeney, Executive Director of The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, “The creation of a conservation easement on the Midland School property protects irreplaceable natural habitats and agricultural lands while preserving of one of the largest, continuous wildlife corridors in the mountains and foothills of southern California.”

The conservation easement was purchased with funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), including Oak Woodland Protection funds, along with funds from the California Transportation Commission’s Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program (EEMP). Approximately 80% of the land being permanently preserved through the conservation easement is comprised of oak woodland, including Valley, blue and coast oaks. The EEMP funds were approved to help mitigate the oak removals that occurred when the Highway 101/154 Interchange was constructed and completed in 2000.

“Not only will the funds used to purchase this conservation easement help to ensure the protection and enhancement of Midland’s 2700 acre “outdoor classroom” habitat, but also the School’s continued operation and stewardship far into the future, teaching and motivating students to become land stewards themselves,” stated John Donnelly, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board.

“Placing a conservation easement on Midland’s property is consistent with the original precepts on which the school was founded back in 1932, including environmental protection and education,” said Nick Alexander, President of the Midland Board of Trustees. “At Midland, we teach our students the value of scholarship, self-reliance, simplicity and environmental stewardship, all of which instill a sense of responsibility to self, to others, and to our world,” he added.

Working together, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, The Trust for Public Land and Midland School have permanently protected an historic, ecological haven while meeting local, statewide and federal conservation objectives for water quality, wildlife habitat, agriculture, and scenic open space preservation. As the scenic gateway to the Figueroa Mountain recreation area, the Midland School easement will be appreciated by visitors driving along Figueroa Mountain Road into the National Forest, and to people hiking, riding and biking in the San Rafael Wilderness Area above Midland.

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.

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County works to preserve and enhance this county’s natural open spaces and agricultural heritage for present and future generations. LTSBC has protected over 21,000 acres in Santa Barbara County, including several local treasures like Arroyo Hondo Preserve, the Coronado Butterfly Preserve and the Carpinteria Bluffs. Learn more about your local Land Trust and conservation projects at www.sblandtrust.org

Founded in 1932, Midland School is a coeducational, college preparatory boarding school for grades 9-12. It is located in Santa Barbara County on a 2,860-acre working ranch. The school combines rigorous academics with intensive immersion in the environment, and maintains a philosophical commitment to authentic student leadership, simplicity, self-reliance and environmental stewardship. For more information about Midland School, please see www.midland-school.org