Jack & Laura Dangermond honored with Coastal Legacy 2019 Award
Santa Barbara County is home to some of the most beautiful nature in the world, but amongst its many treasures the Gaviota Coast shines brightest. Not only does the 76 mile area have astounding views and hikes through grasslands, woods, and coastline, it is also home to over 56 species of special status, 10,000 years of human ecology, and an ecosystem that makes it truly unique in the world.
In recognition of work Jack and Laura Dangermond preserving the Gaviota Coast, the nonprofit Gaviota Coast Conservancy held their first annual fundraiser Saturday at the Music Academy of the West and honored the couple with their Coastal Legacy 2019 award. The Dangermonds were recognized for creating the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, a 38 square mile section of the Gaviota Coast that was formerly known as the private Bixby Ranch.
Accepting the award on behalf of the Dangermonds was Michael Bell, who negotiated the purchase of the land. Michael Bell works for the Nature Conservancy, who manages the preserve, and is now the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve’s Director.
“There are conservation leaders here today in this room who helped make this transaction possible. There are conservation leaders who are no longer with us. This project really stood on the shoulders of that legacy of effort, so I want to say thank you Gaviota Coast Conservancy,” said Mr. Bell.
The Dangermonds, high school sweethearts who made their fortune in geographic information systems software, have had a special relationship with the Gaviota Coast ever since they spent their honeymoon there in the mid-1960’s. Since then, they have not only been pioneers in mapping technology, they have also become passionate and dedicated conservationists.
“They were natural conservationists from the beginning, but in their work, in their expertise, in their travels they have come to see the need to protect the most important representations of natural systems and cultural systems that we have left on earth. And this is one of them, here on the Gaviota Coastline,” said Mr. Bell.
The Dangermonds originally wanted to keep their $165 million purchase anonymous, but after much convincing from the Nature and Gaviota Coast Conservancies and friends, the couple chose to publicize their role to set an example and motivate other people of means to significantly engage in conservation.
The Dangermonds’ contribution and the creation of the preserve comes at the end of over a decade of uncertainty over the land. The parcel first came on Mr. Bell and the Dangermonds radars in 2006, when the Bixby Ranch was sold to a private developer and hedge fund. Although a conservancy deal was not able to be made at that time, the Gaviota Coastline Conservancies spent the next ten years in court ensuring the areas ecosystem was protected from irresponsible development.
At the end of 2017, the developers decided to sell the land to the Nature Conservancy, who was only able to purchase it due to the Dangermonds stepping in to donate the entire cost.
Although the couple was not able to attend the event, Mr. Dangermond recorded a video address for the audience thanking the Gaviota Coast Conservancy.
“While we have been able to preserve this great piece of land, your organization has been the fundamental organization that has enabled it. You have done the right policy creation, advocacy, fighting development on many fronts, and making the community aware,” said Mr. Dangermond.
The event was attended by Rep. Carbajal (D-24), state Sen. Jackson (D-19), various County Board of Supervisors members, and Santa Barbara City Council members.
Carbajal, Jackson, a representative for Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-37), and Third District Supervisor for Santa Barbara Joan Hartmann presented their own awards to Mr. Bell and the Dangermonds, thanking them for the work they’ve done to preserve resources in their home districts.
The event was sponsored by over 22 businesses and individuals, including SeaVees, Montecito Bank & Trust, and the Trust For Public Land. Food was provided by Seasons Catering, and wine and beer was provided by Oreana Winery and M. Special Brewing Company.
The 250 attendees participated in silent and live auctions. The silent action featured over 50 items, including original paintings, jewelry, surfing lessons, and clothing. Participants in the live action took home items like a set of vinyl albums and a drum head signed by John Desmore from his days in the Doors, and a signed ukulele from UCSB alum Jack Johnson.
The fundraiser was a tremendous success, said Mr. Bell.
“One thing that I’m just so thrilled about is the recognition of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy and all of the local work that they do and building leadership and getting people involved. You saw all the excitement in that room, I mean that takes leadership, and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy is providing it. Without that this kind of conservation achievement is impossible,” Mr. Bell told the News-Press.
The work of building the preserve and creating research programs has just begun, but Mr. Bell encouraged people to get involved. Those interested in more information on how to do so can visit https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/.