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Priority Conservation Areas

From Highlights from A Conservation Blueprint

The undeveloped land in Santa Cruz County is part of the web of the natural world we depend on. In that sense there is no inconsequential land and probably very little land that doesn’t deserve protection. The need to prioritize conservation efforts arises from the fact that financial resources are limited and we cannot do all that should be done or that we would like to do.

The Conservation Blueprint identifies priority areas that are most likely to provide a variety of benefits – to biodiversity, water resources, working lands, and recreation. The map on the facing page shows the priority areas identified by the Blueprint and briefly summarizes the multiple benefits that can be achieved through conservation projects in these areas.

These eight areas, plus key streams and rivers, total 112,000 acres, of which 22,000 acres are already protected. Of the remaining 90,000 acres, some lands may not contain critical conservation values or may not be deemed at risk of loss or conversion over the next several decades. The Blueprint estimates that approximately 50,000 acres merit protection through a variety of means over the next 25 years.

Conservation projects in each of these areas will provide a variety of benefits including the following:

Wildlife habitat and connectivity. The rich biodiversity of Santa Cruz County is dependent on maintaining its diverse habitats. Forests, grasslands, streams, and wetlands are critical for fish, birds, and other wildlife. Maintaining large intact patches of habitat and connections between them are critical for plants and wildlife, including large roaming mammals like mountain lions and badgers.

Water supply and quality. The county’s water supply originates in the mountains and the health of streams and wetlands are the key to water quality. Groundwater recharge areas are critical to replenishing our overdrafted aquifers.

Working lands. Farm, timber, and ranch lands provide us with local food and building materials and are a cornerstone of our economy and tax base. Well managed working lands also support wildlife habitat and clean water.

Recreational and educational opportunities. Many of these priority areas provide opportunities for trail connections to other trails and parks – and a diverse array of settings for outdoor environmental education.

Download map: Important Areas for Multibenefit Conservation (pdf, 5.6MB)

Important Areas for Multibenefit Conservation

More about the Conservation Blueprint