Star Creek Ranch, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties

At its November 29, 2012, board meeting the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) will consider the allocation of $2,510,000.00, in funding for a grant to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (The Trust) for a cooperative project with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and private donors to acquire fee title to 1,210± acres of a working forest property

The subject property (Property) is located approximately five miles east of the city of Watsonville and straddles the border between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.  The Property encompasses a prominent ridge located in the Sierra Azul Range, within the Pajaro Hills, which represents the southern portion of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

The Property is a privately owned ranch that has been historically managed as a working timber forest and ranchland property. The ranch is zoned as a Timber Production Zone (TPZ) and is managed by the current landowner for timber production and grazing. The forested areas have been logged commercially since the 1890’s.  This project would  allow the Land Trust to practice sustainable “restoration forestry” to improve the commercial viability and ecological function of the forest and help sustain local timber related businesses and services. The Property contains a variety of habitats, with 936 acres of forestland, including stands of coastal redwoods, riparian corridors, oak woodlands, grassland and aquatic areas. The terrain of the property is primarily hilly to steep terrain with several creeks running through the property, including 2.5 miles of Pescadero Creek, which provides breeding and rearing habitat for the federally threatened and endangered steelhead trout.  Pescadero Creek is also likely an important movement corridor for the California red-legged frog and the southwestern pond turtle.  Star Creek Ranch also provides important habitat for wide-ranging species such as mountain lion, american badger, grey fox, bobcat, olive-sided flycatchers, golden eagles, northern harriers, white-tailed kites, and horned larks.

The purposes of this project are consistent with the authorized uses of the proposed funding source, which allows for forest conservation and protection projects in order to promote the ecological integrity and economic stability of California's diverse native forests through forest conservation, preservation and restoration of productive managed forest lands, forest reserve areas, redwood forests and other forest types, including the conservation of water resources and natural habitats for native fish, wildlife and plants found on these lands.  [Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Fund of 2006 (Proposition 84), Section 75055(a)]