California redwoods. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
8,532 acres of redwood forest and wildlife habitat in the Santa Cruz mountains will be protected after a coalition of San Francisco Bay Area conservation groups bought the land — the largest private landholding in in Santa Cruz County — for $30 million from building materials giant CEMEX, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
The purchase is the first major project under the Living Landscape Initiative, a collaboration launched this year by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the Nature Conservancy, Save the Redwoods League, and the Sempervirens Fund. Funding for the acquisition came from POST ($16 million), the Gordon and Betty Moore and David and Lucile Packard foundations ($8 million), the Sempervirens Fund ($5 million), the Nature Conservancy ($500,000), and the San Francisco Foundation ($150,000).
The acquisition will prevent the subdivision of the land for luxury homes and link 26,000 acres of protected areas. It will also protect old-growth redwoods from logging under a conservation easement, although it will allow “sustainable timber harvest under stricter guidelines than those in place now on the property to maintain the health of the forest while providing tax revenues and jobs for Santa Cruz County,” according to a statement released by the initiative. Under the initiative’s working plan, the property will eventually be sold to a private party contingent on the conservation easement in old-growth forest areas and a sustainable forestry working plan.
The San Jose Mercury News notes that the deal comes as the state of California plans to close 70 parks and has jettisoned plans to acquire any new land.