Mapping Out How To Conserve 30 Percent Of San Benito, Monterey And Santa Cruz Counties’ Lands And Coastal Waters By 2030 

Trust For Public Land combined cutting-edge federal, state, regional, and local mapping data with input from more than 200 local residents to prioritize land conservation and restoration opportunities for more equitable investments to help reach California’s 30×30 climate goals   

San Francisco, CA — Trust for Public Land has released a groundbreaking “Pathways to Climate Resilience in California’s Central Coast” study after engaging community members and conducting research to guide strategic, equitable investment in the outdoors in the region.  

California’s 30×30 initiative commits to protecting at least 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030. Trust for Public Land, working with our community-based partners, is using a new approach to integrating GIS mapping, ecological data, and community insights to help generate and guide enduring investments in the Central Coast, particularly in Nature-Based Climate Solutions. This approach makes the region more resilient to drought, wildfires, and other climate risks. What makes this work unique is TPL’s approach to bring the data to diverse community members and ask them to augment it with their own understandings and expertise regarding open space needs, desires, and priorities across the Central Coast.  

This community-centered approach is urgent and timely. California’s recent, historic investments in Nature-Based Climate Solutions are now faced with immense funding cuts amidst California’s budget deficit. This new research makes the case as to why Central Coast communities need reliable funding sources for protecting the region’s valuable natural and working lands, water and wildlife – in a way that provides equitable benefits across the region.

An interactive website that shows highlights of the study, including the meaningful involvement of communities, closing the outdoor equity gap, and increasing climate resilience, is available at:  

As climate change tightens its grip on California, charting a sustainable future for the state’s Central Coast Region is crucial to meet California’s climate resilience goals and ensuring the wellbeing of communities nestled between the rapidly growing metropolitan areas of the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. The study identifies investment priorities to advance biodiversity, climate resilience, and equitable access to nature in an iconic portion of the Central Coast, made up of San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties (the Monterey Bay Region).   

Access to the outdoors is starkly divided in the region between the haves and have nots, as the majority of past conservation and recreation investments have been done along the coast, leaving largely rural interior areas under-invested. The State’s upcoming budget-shortfalls will likely translate to increased vulnerability of these under-invested communities. Even as sea-level rise threatens our coastal areas, other climate related changes, including drought, wildfire, and flooding, are affecting inland communities and are imperiling the health and resilience of the entire Monterey Bay Region.

TPL’s study shows this inequitable pattern of investment has also impacted rural communities’ access to nature. For example, northern Santa Cruz neighborhoods have more than 100 trailheads within a 30-minute drive of most homes. Meanwhile, residents of San Benito County can drive for more than 30 minutes and still struggle to find a single public park.  Inequities in investment begin long before a park or open space area is created.  Community groups, non-profits and local agencies are an essential part of developing and implementing effective open space and conservation projects and are also most heavily impacted by budget constraints affecting many rural and interior areas.  To achieve equitable open space investment, this challenge must be addressed. 

The release of the study comes at a critical time as the legislature and governor work to place a needed climate bond on the November 2024 ballot that can help advance 30×30 implementation in the Central Coast. Community-led efforts to secure long term funding are also currently underway, particularly in Santa Cruz County – where a broad coalition of residents, organizations and businesses are working on a county-wide climate resilience local measure on the November 2024 ballot. Additionally, TPL’s study complements the recent release of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) Climate Study, where climate adaptation and mitigation strategies are listed, each with recommended implementation actions.

The study nonetheless points to a bright future for the overall health of the Monterey Bay Region and its cultural, ecological, and economic vitality if these challenges are addressed. Creative, community-sourced conservation plans abound in the Central Coast. The missing key for success is institutional capacity and equitable funding distribution. The vision of a climate-resilient Monterey Bay Region can be achieved with the creation of durable funding for organizations and local agencies committed to ensuring priority lands and waters are protected and can be safely and sustainably managed over time. Importantly, rural, Indigenous, and underserved communities need robust, dedicated funding sources to sustain their work and enable them to create new pathways for equitable access, climate resilience, and biodiversity conservation.

Guillermo Rodriguez, Vice President Pacific Region, California State Director at Trust for Public Land said: “This is a critical time for us to invest in California’s Central Coast. The equity disparities need fixing yesterday, and if we fail to make our 30×30 investments now, we’ll run out of time to ensure Central Coast communities – and the lands and waters they depend on – remain resilient and healthy in the years to come. This best-in-class data points the way for investment and galvanizes our land protection efforts. We have so many opportunities to protect important landscapes that address fire protection, water conservation, biodiversity, equity, and Indigenous and ancestral land return, but now we need a local source of funding for the region.”   

Valentin Lopez, President of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, and Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band said: “Incorporating Indigenous voices and wisdom into conservation planning and nature-based climate solutions is critical to their success, and also to the health and well-being of Indigenous communities.  We’re proud to partner with Trust for Public Land on this unique, community-centered effort, and look forward to being an integral part of the future conservation actions to protect and restore Mother Earth.” 

Michael Reeves, Board President, San Benito Agricultural Land Trust said: ” San Benito County’s working farms and rangeland provide food for people worldwide. They also protect our local water, open space, and natural resources.  Sustaining these traditional land uses is challenged by commuter growth pressures coming from neighboring counties. The last census showed San Benito County with the second greatest population growth of all California counties. The small population of 68,000 people limits the County’s ability to support public open space. San Benito Agricultural Land Trust, and other local organizations, were excited to participate in TPL’s Central Coast Climate Initiative workshops where our neighbors learned about the important role San Benito’s open agricultural lands play in the health of the greater Monterey Bay region.”

Susan True, Chief Executive Officer, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County said:“We are excited to see TPL’s Central Coast Climate Initiative evolve these past two years. From hosting their first community Roundtable at the Community Foundation, to today’s powerful integration of a diverse, active, and powerful coalition working together for climate conservation for the Monterey Bay Region – we are experiencing the value of TPL’s national leadership and expertise right here on the Central Coast.” 

Jeannette Tuitele-Lewis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Sur Land Trust: “We’d like to commend Trust for Public Land on their Pathways to Climate Resilience in California’s Central Coast study. The study’s findings underscore the urgent need to address ongoing inequities in the distribution of parks and conserved lands in the Central Coast. This is critical if we are to ensure that all people, wherever they live in this region, will be able to access the many benefits such open spaces provide, while also ensuring the protection of vital lands and waters. This is why Big Sur Land Trust is actively working in the City of Salinas to build a new park and open space to address the lack of such spaces in the city, especially critical in urban environments.  TPL’s study points to other areas of great need and rightfully calls for creating mechanisms to provide durable funding to grow and sustain these vital investments in the future of our communities.” 

Neal Sharma, Senior Manager, California Wildlife Program, Wildlife Conservation Network said:  “California’s 30×30 initiative recognizes that connected and intact habitats are essential for supporting biodiversity, aiding ecosystems’ ability to adapt to change, and contributing to overall regional health. TPL’s “Pathways to Climate Resilience in California’s Central Coast” provides a community-based process to better understand opportunities and needs, while advancing dialogues to increase conservation investments in the region. Wildlife Conservation Network’s California Wildlife Program is enthusiastic about our continued collaboration with TPL and others to implement 30×30 so that we can help people and wildlife not just coexist, but thrive.” 

Chris Wilmers professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of California, Santa Cruz said: “Combining scientific analyses with community-sourced information and experience is a powerful idea which can help local and regional planners better meet growth needs while protecting and preserving threatened habitat and biodiversity. TPL’s Central Coast Climate Initiative highlights the critical needs and exceptional opportunities for nature-based solutions in the Central Coast that can increase climate resilience for local communities and the lands and waters on which they depend.” 


 About Trust for Public Land  

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit