SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Nature Conservancy's purchase of the historic Cojo-Jalama Ranch, formerly known as the Bixby Ranch, in Santa Barbara County is seen as a transformative event in Central Coast land preservation.
The Nature Conservancy recently took ownership of the Cojo-Jalama Ranch at Pt. Conception which is now known as the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve at Pt. Conception.
The property is more than 24,000 acres of pristine coastline and virtually untouched coastal habitat that wraps around the iconic Pt. Conception Lighthouse along the coast and is adjacent to foothills, mountains and woodlands that provide wildlife corridors for large animals as well as threatened and endangered species.
"This is a one of a kind place in California and it's home to the last of it's kind of natural and cultural resources", said Mark Reynolds with The Nature Conservancy, "this is a place where the bio-diverse regions of northern California meet those of southern California, it's a very important area of convergence and globally significant rare species."
The land purchase by The Nature Conservancy in December 2017 was made possible by the donation of $165 million by Jack and Laura Dangermond, co-founders of Esri, a Redlands,Calif.-based company that's a global leader in geographic information systems and software.
The Dangermond gift is the largest single donation in the history of The Nature Conservancy.
"We had the opportunity with this land deal to really protect this place and keep it wild forever", Reynolds said.
After the deal was announced in December, Jack Dangermond said the Cojo-Jalama Ranch "is an incredibly rare, ecologically important place with eight miles of coast and centuries-old coastal oak woodlands that deserves to be preserved and managed by an organization like The Nature Conservancy."
Jack and Laura Dangermond are inviting others with similar financial means to follow their lead when it comes to philanthropic land preservation.
"Incredibly generous and visionary", said Phil McKenna with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy in Santa Barbara County, "trying to capture the good intentions of people with wealth and means to leave a legacy to help preserve the environment for the benefit of future generations and the welfare of all."
The Gaviota Coast Conservancy plans to build on the momentum from the Dangermond Preserve in protecting lands on the south coast from encroaching development.
"That's what brought the citizens of Santa Barbara County together initially to form the (Gaviota Coast) Conservancy", McKenna said, "the opportunity to try and preserve something that really reflects what our coastal heritage was and is and can be."
The Dangermond Preserve also establishes a collaborative research effort with U.C. Santa Barbara.
"So we're just having initial conversations with those leaders in various fields at UC Santa Barbara and developing our thoughts about how to move forward with collaboration with UCSB", Reynolds said.
Jack Dangermond says The Nature Conservancy has the expertise to manage a complex piece of land full of history and ecological value and he looks forward to the leading-edge scientific research that will follow.
The Nature Conservancy is now embarked on an 18-month review and planning process for managing and protecting the resources of the Dangermond Preserve and balancing that with appropriate public access.
In the meantime, the 24,000 acre property will continue to operate as a cattle ranch.