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Sempervirens Fund permanently protects 120 acres in Santa Cruz mountains’ Upper Zayante watershed

The Isabel Upani conservation easement, donated to Sempervirens Fund by private landowners, guarantees protection of the more than 67 acres of redwood forest


Image of redwood forest in the Upper Zayante watershed near Felton, Ca. Photograph by Orenda Randuch.

Sempervirens Fund has protected 120 acres in the Upper Zayante watershed in perpetuity. Photo by Orenda Randuch

Los Altos, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2024) —With the donation of a conservation easement from private landowners to Sempervirens Fund, California’s first land trust, 120 acres in the Upper Zayante watershed will be protected in perpetuity. The land includes more than 67 acres of redwood forest, mostly second-growth trees with some residual old-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, oak woodland, mixed hardwood, maritime chaparral, chamise scrubland, and riparian woodland. Ultimately feeding into the regionally critical San Lorenzo River, the Upper Zayante River watershed is important to steelhead habitat and recovery of coho salmon.

The conservation easement protects the land, known to the owners as “Isabel Upani,” in perpetuity, and permanently restricts development, subdivision, and commercial timber harvest, while allowing the owners to continue to access and enjoy the land for low-impact recreational purposes. Sempervirens Fund will implement stewardship initiatives to improve the health and resilience of the forest habitats, which could include conservation measures such as fuel reduction, waterway restoration, and vegetation management.

“This is a great moment for conservation in the Santa Cruz mountains, and we’re so thrilled to partner with passionate private conservationists to protect and steward important redwood forests in the Upper Zayante watershed,” said Sara Barth, Executive Director of Sempervirens Fund. “With abundant natural resources, including redwood forests, and home to critical habitat for endangered species, Sempervirens Fund will make sure this land is conserved and stewarded for generations to come.”

The land supports many native animal species, and the upland redwood vegetation community on the land likely supports rare species such as the San Francisco Dusky-footed woodrat, pileated woodpecker, and the Santa Cruz black salamander. The land contains dozens of remnant old-growth redwood trees among the more plentiful younger second-growth.

The donated easement of 120 acres, worth just over $680,000, exemplifies an emerging model between conservation groups and private landowners to preserve land from development and address the ongoing climate crisis. This partnership with these landowners aligns with President Biden’s goal, and Gov. Newsom’s 30×30 Initiative, to conserve 30% of lands and waterways by 2030 through collaborations that center on conservation, resiliency, and inclusion.

Just last year, Sempervirens Fund purchased a nearly-$10 million conservation easement from The Y of San Francisco to permanently protect more than 900 acres, including the largest unprotected stand of old-growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, at Camp Jones Gulch in La Honda. With this latest 120 acres, Sempervirens Fund has protected more than 36,000 acres of land in the Santa Cruz mountains, and currently owns and stewards more than 12,000 acres.

“Redwoods sequester more carbon than any plant species in the world and as we continue to stand up against an aggressively changing climate, conservation partnerships like this one are more critical than ever,” said Barth. “We stand ready at Sempervirens Fund to work with other community organizations, conservation groups, and private landowners to conserve and protect as many acres as we can.”

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