Isabel Upani Conservation Easement
A Partnership for Redwoods and Watersheds
In the Upper Zayante River watershed, Isabel Upani's waters flow through 120-acres of redwood forests, woodlands, and rare maritime chaparral into the largest critical riparian habitat in the region—the San Lorenzo River—where threatened steelhead trout and endangered coho salmon re-enter the freshwaters to return to the forest where they were born in hopes of spawning the next generation. These incredible habitats are protected in an incredible way and, situated near another land Sempervirens Fund supporters protected, help to provide exponential protection for the forests, wildlife, and vital waters of the Santa Cruz mountains.
Read on to learn more about what makes Isabel Upani special.
photos by Orenda Randuch
Protecting Isabel Upani
After more than a century of purchasing more than 36,000 acres of redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains, Isabel Upani's protection is an exciting example of how Sempervirens Fund supporters continue to help us innovate and adapt new ways to safeguard these crucial and magical places and the interconnected ecosystems they need to survive and thrive. Isabel Upani's landowners, who wish to remain anonymous, donated a conservation easement to Sempervirens Fund that permanently protects 120-acres of land from development, subdivision, and commercial timber harvest, while allowing the owners to continue to access and enjoy the property 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. The donated easement 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 30x30 Initiative, to conserve 30% of lands and waterways by 2030 through collaborations that center on conservation, resiliency, and inclusion.
In 2022, Sempervirens Fund supporters helped purchase a conservation easement permanently protecting Camp Jones Gulch's nearly 1,000 acres with YMCA of San Francisco which was a featured example of how private partnerships like these can help achieve California's 30x30 goals to fight climate change. “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,” said Barth.
Forest and Features
Isabel Upani's 120-acres are comprised of more than 67 acres of redwood forest, mostly second-growth trees with dozens of old-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, oak woodland, mixed hardwood, rare maritime chaparral, chamise scrubland, and riparian woodland. Ultimately feeding into the regionally critical San Lorenzo River, Isabel Upani's creek and the Upper Zayante River watershed are important to steelhead trout habitat and recovery of endangered coho salmon.
Wildlife Habitats and Corridors
In addition to contributing to crucial aquatic habitat for threatened steelhead trout and endangered coho salmon downstream, Isabel Upani's range of habitats support many native animal species. It's upland redwood vegetation community likely supports rare species such as the San Francisco Dusky-footed woodrat, pileated woodpecker, and the Santa Cruz black salamander.
Isabel Upani's land and creek in the Upper Zayante watershed flow into the largest, and perhaps the most crucial, water source in the Santa Cruz mountains—the San Lorenzo River. The San Lorenzo River not only flows downstream from Isabel Upani to the town of Boulder Creek, its also a designated critical habitat for the endangered Coho salmon and central coast steelhead trout. Redwoods play an important role in the water cycle helping to condense fog into rain with its leaves, filtering and slowing water flow with its roots, and shading it from evaporation with its canopy. By protecting and caring for the redwoods and waterways of the Upper Zayante watershed, all plants, wildlife, and communities below benefit.
Waterways provide a paramount resource—water—habitat, and a natural pathway for wildlife like the marbled murrelets that follow them from the sea to their nesting habitat in the forest. Like the protected Lompico Headwaters, also in the Upper Zayante watershed and the protected lands in the Butano Creek Watershed, protecting Isabel Upani's 120-acres has exponential impacts for the flow of water and wildlife throughout habitats in the region.
Caring for its Woods, Water, and Watershed
The conservation easement protects Isabel Upani's land in perpetuity, and permanently restricts development, subdivision, and commercial timber harvest, while allowing the landowners 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.
“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,” said Barth.