The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County partnered with Homestead Capital and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an agreement to develop a vineyard on a 684-acre property and conserve 320 acres of prime habitat in the Purisima Hills.
This land is important to many wildlife species, especially the federally endangered California tiger salamander.
This conservation easement allows ranchers, farmers, vintners and others a cost-effective way to increase production on valuable parts of their land while they offset impacts by protecting other habitat for this rare amphibian
The salamanders live most of their lives in ground squirrel burrows, but they also depend on aquatic habitat — vernal ponds, natural sumps and even stock ponds and some agricultural reservoirs. The agreement protects a wildlife corridor connecting a regional system of upland habitat and breeding ponds vital for California tiger salamanders that are already protected by other conservation easements.
“The Endangered Species Act was key in providing a mechanism for collaboration between our agency and a private landowner,” said Rachel Henry, a fish and wildlife biologist with the Service in Ventura. “We worked with the Land Trust and the landowner to come up with an innovative project that not only provides great conservation benefit for the California tiger salamander, but also meets the needs and objectives of the local landowners.”
The Yellow Foxtrot conservation easement protects grazing land and oak woodlands that are crucial to the survival of the salamander, while ensuring landowner’s rights to continue cattle ranching operations that are compatible with preservation of this endangered species.
The Land Trust continues to prioritize a long view of conservation outcomes for Santa Barbara County agriculture, wildlife and communities.
“We need to continue building strong partnerships that support thriving local economies and protect land for agriculture and habitat. The costs of not protecting natural resources for long term resilience are astronomical, and so are the costs of losing local agriculture that is essential to our food system,” said Meredith Hendricks, Land Trust executive director.