COTONI-COAST RIDGE: EXCEPTIONAL BEAUTY AND STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE

 

Sempervirens Fund deeply values your dedication to protecting the forests, watersheds, and wildlife of the remarkable Santa Cruz Mountains. You’ve demonstrated your personal commitment to our work time and again through your leadership support.

Together, we’ve guaranteed that 34,000 acres of irreplaceable land will remain healthy and unthreatened for all time.

Now we need your help to purchase Cotoni-Coast Ridge, 106 critically important acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains just north of the town of Davenport.

With this successful acquisition, Sempervirens Fund will save towering redwoods, reconnect disrupted ecosystems, preserve unobstructed coastal vistas, and safeguard wildlife habitat.

It will enable responsible stewardship of key native forests, woodlands, and grasslands—and provide open space for visitors far into the future.

Equally important, this parcel adjoins land already under permanent protection. As a result, Cotoni-Coast Ridge advances our vision of the Great Park: a vast, connected, and accessible native forest stretching from Silicon Valley to the Pacific Ocean.

Cotoni-Coast Ridge lies just above the newly designated Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument, which was protected as a result of a campaign spearheaded by Sempervirens Fund.

The land’s location and undeveloped condition—combined with its varied topography and vegetation—give it particularly high conservation value. Plus, the parcel has cultural significance as the ancestral home of the indigenous Amah Mutsun tribe.

These attributes make it a strategic acquisition in the long-term protection of the region.

Sempervirens Fund has secured an exclusive option to purchase Cotoni-Coast Ridge from its owner for a little over $1.2 million.

This option expires on October 15, 2017, when we must have the funds in-hand to move ahead with the deal.

As an outstanding longtime supporter of Sempervirens Fund, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will match dollar-for-dollar all contributions by conservation leaders like you to The Campaign to Preserve Cotoni-Coast Ridge, up to a total of $600,000. As you can see from the giving chart at the end of your proposal, we’re looking for 189 of our most devoted supporters to contribute in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.

For your review, here’s detailed information about this exciting opportunity:

LOCATION

The pie slice-shaped Cotoni-Coast Ridge occupies a superb position at the westernmost ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountain range just above tumbling coastal terraces—and lies one mile from the Pacific Ocean.

It’s one of only two remaining unprotected properties located at the juncture of San Vicente Redwoods (acquired in 2011 and co-managed by Sempervirens Fund), the Bureau of Land Management’s Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument, and Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch. In all, these properties total more than 17,500 acres.

By investing a relatively modest amount in these 106 acres, we’re ensuring that a much larger investment that’s already been made in these 17,500 acres remains protected and healthy.

Look at this way: If you lock up your house tight and buy a fancy alarm system, it can all be a waste if you forget and leave one window open.

Sempervirens Fund and others have invested heavily to protect such a remarkable 17,500-acre wildland complex. But one small site like Cotoni-Coast Ridge—that could be threatened by development—leaves open the risk of undermining and degrading this much larger area.

That’s what makes the acquisition of these 106 acres so compelling and so urgent.

HABITAT

Cotoni-Coast Ridge boasts a diverse topography with elevations ranging from 400-1,000 feet. It encompasses several microclimates that are home to a wide variety of species. At least four distinct vegetation communities are present:

  • Second-growth redwood (approximately half of the property)
  • Coastal terrace prairie, a sensitive habitat that’s been impacted locally by development and the invasion of exotic weeds
  • Coastal mixed hardwood, including oaks, madrones, bays, etc. (approximately 20 percent of the property)
  • Coastal scrub

While the property has no recorded timber harvests, it looks as though it was clearcut 50 to 60 years ago. The entire site burned in the 2009 Lockheed fire, though the fire appears to have mostly affected plants, not trees—and since then, has rejuvenated their health.

WILDLIFE

Cotoni-Coast Ridge supports many native animals and likely provides habitat for such rare coastal terrace prairie species as the Ohlone tiger beetle, American badger, white-tailed kite, and northern harrier. The parcel falls within the nesting range of the endangered marbled murrelet—although it doesn’t include the old-growth redwoods and Douglas fir in which the murrelets tend to nest. The presence of mountain lions on the property has been confirmed—and they’ve been documented by camera just a few hundred yards away in our San Vicente Redwoods. The coast redwood vegetation community on the property could very well support rare species like the San Francisco Duskyfooted woodrat, pileated woodpecker, and Santa Cruz black salamander.

The property is located in the Little Creek watershed and includes the headwaters of Quesería Creek, a tributary to lower Scotts Creek.

Scotts Creek is essential for the endangered Coho and steelhead salmon and is rated 5 of 5 for aquatic biodiversity in the Santa Cruz Mountain Redwoods Conceptual Area Protection Plan.

TRANSACTION DETAILS

In August 2015, the owner of Cotoni-Coast Ridge approached Sempervirens Fund about selling the property.

For the next year and a half, our staff negotiated a price and arranged the sale. This is a relatively quick timeline compared with similar transactions we’ve completed in the area.

The total fair market appraised value of the parcel is $1,550,000. But thanks to the generosity of the land owner, we secured an exclusive option to purchase the property for

$1,225,000—which is 79 percent of the appraised price. This option expires on October 15, 2017.

LONG-TERM STEWARDSHIP

Once Sempervirens Fund completes The Campaign to Preserve Cotoni-Coast Ridge—and purchases the parcel— we’ll either manage it as a stand-alone property or together with the adjoining San Vicente Redwoods.

We don’t anticipate any major stewardship issues. We’ll control for erosion along the old haul roads and remove some invasive species as part of our ongoing management.

Fortunately, there aren’t any man-made structures we’ll need to remove. However, our stewardship plan will address trespassing.

CONCLUSION

With the partnership of loyal friends like you, Sempervirens Fund has worked with integrity in the Santa Cruz Mountains for 117 years. We’re widely known and respected, with strong relationships in the region.

Yet even with such an extensive network, the chance to acquire undeveloped land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, like Cotoni-Coast Ridge, is rare. Few large parcels remain in private ownership.

At the same time, the Bay Area’s population density and soaring property values frequently cause unrealistic expectations among sellers. When legitimate opportunities do arise, transactions can take several years to finalize. But once a deal is struck, we need to come up with the funds by an agreed-upon deadline.

That’s why, in the case of Cotoni-Coast Ridge, we must act now to protect this important piece of property … permanently. And why we need your preeminent support today.