One More Week to Save the Foothills

As I write there is barely over a week left to raise $8 million dollars to pay a developer to purchase 104 acres on the San Marcos Preserve. Bulldozers are literally standing by to start construction on eight luxury homes. I might sound a wee bit ambitious but considering it was $20 million six weeks ago, I’m holding on to hope.

I’ve been walking on the Preserve for 15 years. It’s my escape. Its where I go to ease my mind and find peace and calm. There are other places I can go but this area is special so it’s important to me. It’s also important to you…you just might not know it yet. Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire said “we need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope”. He also said “Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” That’s heady stuff, but I know I’m not the only one who goes outdoors for escape…have you visited a National Park in the summer?

But I’m not here to spell doom & gloom…I’m here to encourage you to donate a few million dollars (in small increments if need be). So, where do I begin? First let me ask, do we need eight more luxury homes in Santa Barbara? In the 15 years I mentioned earlier, the Preserve has burned twice. And I don’t mean little brush type fires. We’re in year-round fire season in California in part because of rising annual temperatures but also because we have built so deep into lands that were meant to burn. Chaparral and foothill foliage have depended on heat and fire to regenerate for millennia. It’s what keeps them alive. It provided for the original inhabitants…the Chumash…and it provides for us. Eight owners will pay for these new homes and then we will pay for the resources to save them every time a fire threatens. Which, if you live here…you know is often.

Burrowing owl | Eric Zobel

The wildlife here is also important. Again, maybe not that important you might think, there is wildlife elsewhere…but at some point, there won’t be an elsewhere. News reports are constant about owners upset over mountain lions and coyotes in their backyards when we are the ones in their backyards. They are running out of room. A project to build a wildlife bridge/corridor over the 101 near Thousand Oaks is underway because so many animals are killed on our freeways. It’s dangerous for us and deadly for them. This is their land too. The circle of life is real and we are also dependent on it for survival. We need all of the pieces of nature to make this thing called life work. And life abounds in the Preserve. Roadrunners, coyotes, mountain lions, deer, black-shouldered kites, chipmunks, raccoons, black tarantulas, pinacate beetles, lizards, beetles, oaks, pepper trees and so much more. Two creeks cross through, gushing torrents of water after big rains connecting the hills to the ocean. When they are dry they serve as thoroughfares for all manner of creatures. In Spring, the fields come alive with mustard grass, lupine, and sage. It’s worth visiting if you haven’t already. But do it soon…like next week. Once homes are built here this land is gone forever.

To ask for the kind of financial donation that’s needed one usually has to make a pretty sound economic argument. Wildlife and trees don’t generally equate to dollars…but this plot of land is important for its own sake. This is our children’s inheritance. This is a city that catalyzed the start of Earth Day and has a long history of saving wild properties. I know I’m not the only one who needs to escape once in a while…I’m hoping you will realize the importance of having wild places to go where you can do that.

Please donate whatever you can: www.foothillsforever.org. Thank you.

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