Nearly 1,000 acres of redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains will be permanently protected from development and future logging thanks to an unusual partnership between a Palo Alto land trust and a family-owned lumber company.
Peninsula Open Space Trust has teamed up with the McCrary Family, which owns Big Creek Lumber, to conserve 937 acres of forest by establishing a working forest conservation easement on 617 acres and protecting 320 acres of critical watershed, mature redwoods and wildlife habitat adjacent to Butano State Park. This is the first deal of its kind to be implemented collaboratively with a timber company in the Santa Cruz Mountains, according to the open space trust.
"It's a win-win arrangement that benefits the forest and shows just how far conservationists and timber companies have come," Walter T. Moore, president of the trust, said in a press release.
The arrangement involves two separate but interdependent land deals. The open space trust and the McCrary family have agreed to conserve both properties, totaling 937 acres, for a project valued at $11.7 million. Through this deal, Big Creek secures access to a sustainable and ecologically appropriate supply of timber for its nearby sawmill in the small community of Davenport, and the open space trust protects almost 1,000 acres of redwood forest.
POST is acquiring a 617-acre property known as Valencia Creek from the Cal Poly Corporation and is permanently protecting it from development. The property sits within the upper watershed of Aptos Creek in Corralitos.
The McCrary family is selling POST 320 acres of mature, unharvested second-growth redwoods in the Gazos Creek watershed as part of the transaction.
The partnership between the open space trust and the McCrary family will result in Big Creek owning and managing the Valencia Creek property, with the Palo Alto nonprofit holding the working forest conservation easement. The Gazos Creek parcel has not been harvested by the McCrary family, who have cared for the property for more than 50 years. The open space trust did not disclose how much the parcel was sold for, but in a press release said it was "a very favorable price" in exchange for the Valencia Creek property.
Sempervirens Fund, the Bay Area land trust dedicated to conserving redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is contributing to the acquisition by assuming management of the Gazos Creek parcel from the open space trust and caring for it until it can be transferred and incorporated into Butano State Park. Sempervirens Fund has worked to expand and connect state park lands, including Butano, Big Basin, Portola Redwoods and Castle Rock State parks.
The deal was funded from multiple sources including the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the open space trust and the McCrary family, with additional support from Sempervirens Fund.