The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land, recently secured a new easement of protected land surrounding Midland School in Santa Barbara County. The conservation easement consists of 2,860 acres that houses oak woodlands as well as various natural habitats for indigenous wildlife.
The Land Trust’s Executive Director Michael Feeney said the process to preserve this parcel was “as always, a long one,” but that it was “a win-win for everybody.” The nonprofit school has been talking about dedicating the easement for a number of years, in order to preserve the land without having to sell it in parts. The Land Trust’s job was to raise the money needed to purchase of the easement.
Feeney’s organization provides an option other than development for conservation-conscious landowners like the Midland School. “A lot of people own valuable property, don’t want to sell to developers, but need to get some profit out of the land,” he explained. Groups such as the Land Trust raise money - largely from state grants - to purchase land from private owners to be preserved as protected areas.
This sale supports the values of the Midland School, which was founded near the base of Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Ynez Valley back in 1932 on a commitment to simplicity, community, and the environment. The decision was made with a great deal of input from students and staff of Midland School, said Feeney, and they can now count on the fact that the land around their campus is secured as a near wilderness.
It will be the role of the Land Trust to organize the use of the land in the future. The land - most of which will be preserved to support such species as black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, and many raptors - will be available in a limited capacity for cattle grazing, and hiking trails will be preserved around the area. The oak woodland in the easement is particularly important to protect, as such woodlands are in decline all throughout the state.