Thanks to Donor Support...
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Thanks to the support of our dedicated donors, Sempervirens Fund continues to carry forth our founders’ vision, working passionately to protect and connect the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains into a vast, magnificent, life-giving redwood world that can support people and wildlife for countless generations to come. And because redwoods will only be protected as long as people understand their importance, we also work to enhance public knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of these magnificent trees.
Sempervirens Fund continues to lead the way—finding new opportunities, models, and partners in the conservation of our local redwoods while maintaining rigorous national land trust standards, which last year included our five year re-accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance’s Accreditation Commission. Below, broken out by key subjects, are select programs from 2016 and investments we are making in 2017 and beyond to continue to fulfill our mission.
Protecting Redwood Forests
Sempervirens Fund currently owns and cares for 22 forest properties and three conservation easements totaling more than 10,000 acres.
Of course, conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains has evolved over the past century, and the changes have accelerated in the last 10 years. For decades, Sempervirens Fund worked in close partnership with California State Parks and other agencies to acquire and then transfer key redwood properties into public ownership. It was a simple and effective model that worked. However, with the fiscal challenges facing our state and the nation in recent years, agencies have less funding to acquire and care for public land—yet, there are 40,000 acres of redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains that still need to be protected.
At any one time there are numerous new land acquisitions and easements projects on the table that cannot be publicly disclosed because it will interfere with the private negotiations. That said, we are very close to a new acquisition deal. The support of our donors is invaluable so that we are ready when such deals come through!
Sempervirens Fund has been leading the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument campaign to ensure that the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property just north of Santa Cruz is recognized for its national significance and given the highest level of federal resource protection. The spectacular 5,800-acre property owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management includes marine terraces, coastal grasslands, and redwood forests, provides exceptional wildlife habitat, and contains important cultural resources dating back thousands of years. For the past two years we have been working with local, statewide, and national partners to convince Congress and President Obama to designate this area as a national monument, which would provide permanent federal protection and conservation status, bringing needed attention and funding to support resource protection, restoration, and public access. We have generated thousands of petition signers and turned out hundreds of people to a public meeting with high level officials to demonstrate strong support for the campaign. Please visit our Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument Campaign section for the latest information.
When we protect redwood forests, we also protect the many species who flourish in their surroundings, including mountain lions, numerous fish species such as coho salmon, the gray fox, and more. Your renewed support is as critical to wildlife as is it is to their habitat.
On our San Vicente Redwoods property we initiated an in-depth monitoring process for an important restoration forestry project to determine how to speed up the development of old-growth characteristics in our redwood forests. Field work will begin this year. One example of the potential benefits is that the old-growth characteristic of larger horizontal branches high up in the trees supports nesting habitat for endangered marbled murrelet seabirds. If we are able to develop larger redwoods faster they have potential to pull that much more carbon out of the atmosphere, fighting climate change.
Fighting Climate Change
In 2016 Sempervirens Fund completed an initial feasibility study investigating the establishment of a carbon bank for the Santa Cruz Mountains region that would provide an economic incentive to small landowners for the protection of redwoods. As redwoods grow they sequester carbon more efficiently than anything else on earth. In so doing, they generate measurable carbon credits that can be sold in the regulatory California carbon market. In exchange for protecting redwoods landowners can generate income through the sale of these credits, however the development, verification, and monitoring costs of such carbon offset projects are cost prohibitive for owners of small properties. Aggregating many small properties could potentially achieve an economy of scale that would make a carbon bank economically viable for the small landowners that make up most of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This year we will start the next phase of additional research in preparation for a pilot project.
We also completed the latest onsite verification process for the landmark Lompico Carbon Project we initiated in 2010 in partnership with PG&E that protects 425 acres of our Lompico redwood forest and will capture the carbon dioxide equivalent of nearly 3.5 million gallons of gasoline. 285 acres of redwoods were explicitly slated to be logged before we purchased this property with strong donor support.
Restoring Threatened Habitats
We are responsible landowners and neighbors and make every effort to carefully steward and improve the health of the forests we own. We complete erosion control, stream restoration, and other enhancement projects to support and improve habitat. And, where needed and ecologically appropriate, we plant trees. To date we have planted more than 95,000 redwood trees.
Sempervirens Fund also helps steward the public parks of the Santa Cruz Mountains by organizing volunteer groups for trail clearing, invasive species removal, and by funding enhancement activities to help keep park facilities in good condition.
These important restoration projects could not be undertaken without the support of dedicated volunteers and interns. In 2016 more than 60 dedicated volunteers and interns invested over 500 hours to remove 400 pounds of trash and 3.5 acres of non-native plant species threatening the redwood forests. Visit our Volunteer Opportunities page to learn more and to contact us to become part of our great team of volunteers.
Connecting At-Risk Youth With the Outdoors
Sempervirens Fund collaborates with area schools and students to not only teach young people about conservation, but help them experience nature and the redwoods first hand. Thanks to the annual support of our donors we are able to partner with organizations like the WOLF (Web of Life Field) School to provide outdoor experiential education to connect at-risk students with nature—in some cases for the first time. Andrew P. Hill High School, Latino Outdoors, and California State Parks are additional partners in our youth outreach programs. In 2017, the California State Parks Backpacking Adventures program we sponsor will include two trips for underserved youth via the Davenport Resource Center and San Mateo Police Activities League.
Improving Recreational Opportunities
Our current park stewardship effort is to dramatically enhance Castle Rock State Park, a 5,200-acre park that is beloved by many who live, work and play in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Working closely with California State Parks, we have created a plan for a new Robert C. Kirkwood entrance and visitor facilities, including a welcome plaza, interpretive features, outdoor amphitheater, large parking lot, restrooms, trail connections, picnic areas and other amenities to attract more visitors and generate critical operating revenue to give Castle Rock the footing it needs to remain open and accessible to meet the demands of a growing and diversifying public. Sempervirens Fund acquired a 33-acre property for this purpose; we are managing construction of the facilities and providing the over $4 million needed to finance this new entrance. Significant construction will take place in 2017.
In coordination with the County of Santa Cruz, we have begun a reuse planning project for the closed cement plant in the coastal town of Davenport. The plant closure in 2010 opened up the opportunity for re-envisioning, reclamation, redevelopment, and reuse of the plant facilities and surrounding area. The planning work will result in a detailed assessment of opportunities and constraints, feasible reuse options, and a well-grounded and economically sustainable strategy for reuse of the cement plant. We are hoping that one of the feasible reuse options will be to redevelop the site as the coastal gateway to the Santa Cruz mountain redwoods, perhaps transforming this brownfield into a smart, green reuse project that provides visitor services and public access to the coast as well as to the nearby open spaces and redwood forests of Cotoni-Coast Dairies and San Vicente Redwoods.
Helping to Bring Back Indigenous Knowledge
Since 2013, Sempervirens Fund has been providing expertise and technical assistance to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to help them form the Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT), which just became its own nonprofit organization in 2016. The goals of this new land trust are to enable members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to access, protect, and steward lands integral to their identity and culture, to revitalize traditional ecological knowledge and cultural practices among tribal membership, and to increase visibility around and appreciation for indigenous stewardship in contemporary land management.
Sempervirens Fund has also been working with the AMLT to complete land stewardship projects on the San Vicente Redwoods and other properties. In 2016 they participated in a controlled burn with CalFire to restore forest health and reduce the risk of future catastrophic wildfire in critical forest habitat at San Vicente. This year the AMLT Native Stewardship Corps Program will begin the multi-year restoration of a meadow of high ecological and ethnobotanical significance on our Whalen property at Castle Rock.
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