From Highlights from A Conservation Blueprint
People are always asking me what my top three take-aways are from the Conservation Blueprint. It’s a challenging question. The Blueprint is 200 pages long and makes scores of recommendations. It is built on the work of over 100 experts. And you want my top three take-aways? Okay, here they are.
The Blueprint reminds me that Santa Cruz County is a refuge!
I’ve lived in Santa Cruz County most of my adult life and I know it’s an amazing place. But learning, in detail, about the natural richness of our county has deepened my understanding of why it is so special. I have come to see Santa Cruz County as a natural refuge – for plants, wildlife, and for people — from the urban world that increasingly surrounds us. That’s why I live here and it’s why so many people visit us. It’s why the fate of Santa Cruz County matters – because it is one of the last natural places so close to so many people.
The Blueprint shows us the unseen threats to our county.
Santa Cruz County certainly doesn’t look threatened. It is mostly undeveloped and we have a proud history of protecting it. But the pretty streams are often polluted and our water supply threatened. Under current zoning 17,000 more housing units could be built, many of them in rural areas, breaking up the natural habitat. Explosive growth in our four neighboring counties will soon surround us with four million people. We are not immune from the impacts of the growth all around us.
The Blueprint offers real-world solutions to protect our county for future generations.
We recognize that financial resources, like natural ones, are limited and that we cannot protect everything we might want to protect. The Blueprint identifies eight areas of the county where we can protect water resources, wildlife habitat, working lands, and recreational opportunities. We estimate that by protecting 50,000 acres of land in these areas, we can help ensure that Santa Cruz County remains a refuge for future generations.
The Blueprint recommends that acquisition not be the dominant way we protect land in the future – that we place more emphasis on protection through innovative tools like conservation easements and stewardship incentives. The use of these tools is less expensive than buying the land, thus allowing us to protect more for less. These tools also keep land in private hands and on the tax rolls, which supports our economy, keeps working lands producing goods, and retains the tax base for public services.
The Blueprint will certainly guide the Land Trust’s work for the next 25 years, but we also hope that it will be a guide and a resource for everyone working to protect Santa Cruz County. The Blueprint is about what we can do together over the next 25 years to protect our county for future generations. It’s about our kids and grandkids and the world we are going to leave them. I think our community is ready to meet this challenge.
Executive Director, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County