Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Strategic Plan. July 2012 to June This is a public version of a more detailed internal plan.

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1 Land Trust of Santa Cruz County Strategic Plan July 2012 to June 2015 This is a public version of a more detailed internal plan. Over the next three years the Land Trust will pursue four critical strategies. LAND PROTECTION The Land Trust will provide permanent protection for the natural environment, biodiversity, water resources, working lands, recreational opportunities, and the healthy communities of Santa Cruz County by protecting key lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Pajaro Valley, the Pajaro Hills and the Santa Cruz Sandhills.. STEWARDSHIP The Land Trust will steward and restore the lands entrusted to us. We will engage the community in their care, provide improved access where appropriate, ensure that the habitats are protected, and be good neighbors. Special attention will be given to the CEMEX Redwood Forest project, Star Creek Ranch and Watsonville Slough Farm. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT The Land Trust will establish itself as the community s land conservation leader, ensuring the short-term and long-term success of the conservation goals outlined in our Conservation Blueprint. We will demonstrate to the people of Santa Cruz County the benefits of the Conservation Blueprint and build community support for the public and private funding to implement the Blueprint s vision. CAPACITY The Land Trust s leadership and staff will ensure that there is capacity on all levels; board, staff, skill sets, and the systems that support them, to effectively execute the mission of the Land Trust now and in the future. 1

2 Strategy #1 LAND PROTECTION Provide permanent protection for the natural environment, biodiversity, water resources, working lands, recreational opportunities, and the healthy communities of Santa Cruz County Magenta lands already protected by the Land Trust in the Pajaro Valley and foothills PAJARO VALLEY FARMLANDS: Protect and support the economic viability and long-term sustainability of the farmlands, wetlands and water resources of the Pajaro Valley. The protection of Pajaro Valley farmland is a signature Land Trust effort and a foundation of its identity as a different kind of land trust. Without permanent protection the Pajaro Valley will inevitability be the victim of long-term development pressures. The Land Trust s success in protecting the valley s farmland will be a lasting legacy that will permanently shape Santa Cruz County as a rural oasis adjacent to massive urban development. Long-Term Goal: Undertake key conservation transactions in the most threatened Priority Conservation Areas as identified in the Conservation Blueprint for Santa Cruz County. Basic Strategic Approach: The Land Trust will develop a detailed protection plan for the area, tiered off of the Conservation Blueprint, delineating priorities. The Land Trust will contact the 10 key landowners to acquire easements or other protective interests in land. The Land Trust will, from time to time, support other organizations that are advocating policies to advance farmland protection in the Pajaro Valley and support Watsonville s Master Trail Plan efforts. 2

3 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS: Protect the waters, recreational opportunities, habitats, and working landscapes of the North Coast region The successful completion of the CEMEX Redwoods Forest project is critical to the Land Trust s reputation. It will demonstrate the realworld application of the Blueprint s core approach and the Land Trust s ability to work in partnership to achieve those goals. Long-Term Goal: Expand the protection of the Santa Cruz Mountains to protect the habitat, watershed and aquatic values of the area, provide ecological and recreational connectivity south of the Big Basin region, safeguard critical water supplies, enhance resilience to climate change and protect enough working timber lands to ensure viability of the Santa Cruz County timber industry. CEMEX Redwoods Forest lies between other protected lands Basic Strategic Approach: The Land Trust will work with the Living Landscape Initiative partners and engage public agencies to ensure the protection of the CEMEX property as a working landscape based on the following guidelines and principles: Develop the project so that it provides local economic benefit and public access Ensure there is adequate funding for stewardship and monitoring Explore opportunities to link the public access program with other public lands including Coast Dairies PAJARO HILLS: Expand the landscape corridors and linkages in the oak woodlands and grasslands in the Pajaro Hills The protection of the Pajaro Hills is a major goal of the Conservation Blueprint. The protection activity in the Pajaro Hills demonstrates the Land Trust s ability to initiate landscape-scale conservation and wildlife corridor development in cooperation with partners and key landowners. Long-Term Goal: Protect key areas of oak woodlands, grasslands and riparian corridors that are both intrinsically ecologically valuable and that also promote the long-term viability and resilience to climate change. We will do so in a manner that recognizes and supports the traditional working landscapes of the region including timber and cattle ranching. 3

4 Basic Strategic Approach: The Land Trust will work with our Living Landscape Initiative partners to develop a strategy for the protection of these corridors. The Land Trust will use its relationships with major landowners and others to influence the conservation outcome. The Land Trust will contact and cultivate relationships with all major landowners on the Santa Cruz County side of the project area and will actively promote the value of working ranches and timberlands in the overall protection strategy for this region. SANTA CRUZ SANDHILLS: Protect the resource values of the Santa Cruz Sandhills The protection of the rare Sandhills habitats demonstrates the Land Trust s commitment to biodiversity and is a key goal of the Blueprint. Long-Term Goal: Expand the protection of the Santa Cruz Sandhills to encompass the areas delineated in the Conservation Blueprint and to ensure that there are sufficient buffer lands protected to support the long-term viability of these habitats. Basic Strategic Approach: The Land Trust will complete the Sandhills projects currently under option. On an opportunistic basis the Land Trust will consider the acquisition of additional easements. Strategy #2: STEWARDSHIP Protect and enhance the lands entrusted to us. Engage the Community in their care, provide access where appropriate, ensure that the habitats are protected, and be good neighbors STEWARDSHIP: Implement best practices stewardship on all lands under our guardianship. In many respects the end product of the Land Trust s work is how the land it has protected is managed over time. The reputation of the Land Trust hinges on successfully addressing this complex issue. Long-Term Goal: The Land Trust has an earned reputation of providing quality stewardship and monitoring of all lands under its care. The Land Trust is known for its solid, science-based approach, utilizing best management practices across all of its holdings. The Land Trust demonstrates to the community sustainable models of stewardship across a range of working landscapes. The Land Trust holds and maintains Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Accreditation. Basic Strategic Approach Using the LTA Accreditation process for guidance, the Land Trust will complete the development of program plans that describe the general approach, staffing, timing and cost of the stewardship, easement monitoring and LTA compliance programs. From these program plans individual site plans will be developed that detail actions and funding for each site. Plans will be developed and long-term funding secured for all new easement or fee obligations of the Land Trust. 4

5 WATSONVILLE SLOUGH FARM: The Watsonville Slough Farm is managed to increase the health of the county s largest freshwater wetlands and as a demonstration model for economically and ecologically sustainable agricultural practices The issues addressed at Watsonville Slough Farm are universal in the Pajaro Valley and across much of the Central Coast. In this very competitive agricultural environment few can afford to experiment with new practices that haven t been clearly demonstrated as viable. This site offers the flexibility to try new approaches and more sustainable approaches, that could be widely adopted and advance many of the goals articulated in the Blueprint. Long-Term Goal: The Watsonville Slough Farm is recognized as a model of how to enhance the protection of critical natural resources while demonstrating the efficacy of a variety of sustainability practices with broad applicability to farming in the Pajaro Valley and the Central Coast. Basic Strategic Approach: Using the general management and restoration plan as a starting point the Land Trust, working closely with local agricultural leadership and the farm managers will implement a program focused on practices that advance the concept of ecological and economic sustainability. While the primary goal is the best stewardship of this site, another key goal is to share what we learn here with others. Three key themes will be addressed water use efficiency, improvements in water quality, and agricultural compatible habitat improvements. Public tour of the Watsonville Slough Farm Strategy #3: COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT The Land Trust will establish itself as the community s land conservation leader, ensuring the short-term and long-term success of the goals outlined in the Conservation Blueprint. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Demonstrate to the people of Santa Cruz County the benefits of the Land Trust s Conservation Blueprint. Community engagement is critical to the long-term success of conservation. It is the foundation for increasing public support for conservation efforts and private support for the work of the Land Trust. Long-Term Goal: The community understands the value of land and water conservation, enjoys the benefits it provides and identifies the role that the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County plays in making all of this possible. Youth is especially targeted because they are the vehicle for ensuring the permanence of this work. 5

6 Basic Strategic Approach: The Land Trust will develop access plans and programs for its key land holdings and implement them as soon as funding is available. These plans will expand access opportunities for the community while minimizing environmental impacts, new facilities and ongoing operating expenses. Access improvements will focus on Antonelli Pond, the CEMEX Redwoods Forest, the Byrne-Milliron Forest, and Star Creek Ranch. Community Forum on future uses of the CEMEX Redwoods Forest PRIVATE AND PUBLIC FUNDING : Engage those committed to the conservation of Santa Cruz County in the development of the public and private funding needed to implement the Conservation Blueprint. Public and private funding is a keystone strategy that supports all Land Trust acquisition and stewardship activities. Long-Term Goal: Ensure the implementation of the community-supported and science-based Conservation Blueprint that identified conservation and recreational priorities in Santa Cruz County is adequately funded. The plan guides the work of the Land Trust and informs projects undertaken by public agencies and other conservation organizations and it provides the justification, documentation, and context for conservation funding in the County. Basic Strategic Approach: The Land Trust will take a leadership position in developing funding for the implementation of the several elements of the Conservation Blueprint; habitat protection, working landscapes and farmland conservation. Currently the Land Trust is engaged in a $13.5 million capital campaign to fund these types of efforts. That campaign is scheduled to be completed by the end of Working with the Living Landscape Initiative, foundations and other partners the Land Trust hopes to bring additional funding to Blueprint priorities. Additionally the Land Trust will endeavor to widen its donor base, strengthen its internal fundraising capacity and develop new ways for supporters to give and be engaged. Public funding is essential to successfully implement the Blueprint. The Land Trust will take a leadership role working closely with community and political leaders to identify and secure public funding at the federal, state, 6

7 and local level, including efforts at all levels to develop new sources such as the state water bond, federal appropriations, and local funding measures. Strategy #4: CAPACITY The Land Trust s leadership and staff will continuously work to ensure that the Trust has the capacity on all levels, board, staff, skill sets, and the systems that support them to effectively and efficiently execute the mission of the Land Trust now and in the future. STAFFING. The Land Trust has a core staff of experienced and skilled conservation practitioners that can execute the organization's plans successfully. The Land Trust will reevaluate its staffing requirements as major projects such as CEMEX develop. Additional development/engagement staff will be considered as part of the 2013 development and engagement planning process. SKILLS. The current staff is skilled, experienced and dedicated. They encompass a wide range of expertise that is sufficient to successfully implement the plan. The proposed plan and the growing complexity of doing conservation work in California will necessitate a staff that is even more skilled, is current with all of the latest knowledge of the trade and is functioning at the top of their game. SYSTEMS. The Trust will remain in the existing office space for the next three year planning period. The current space will be improved and remodeled to accommodate flexible work. Budgeting and project management is a major challenge program-wide and for stewardship in particular, it is the biggest portion of the budget and it is a complex endeavor. The current budgeting system, including staff training on budgeting, and a process for board review will be revised based on protocols that other similar NGO s use. 10 miles of roads and trails open to the public at the Byrne-Milliron Forest 7

8 RAISE MORE MONEY AND INCREASE BOARD ENGAGEMENT IN THE EFFORT. Fundraising, while always challenging, promises to continue to be tough over the duration of this plan. The downturn in the economy has reduced charitable giving generally, the budget crisis in government at all levels has reduced funding from that source, and the strategies outlined in this plan require increased spending to be successfully implemented. The plan proposes several approaches to address these challenges: increased community engagement, public access improvements, and increased Board capacity. MONITOR AND UPDATE PLAN. The plan will be used as the standard against which performance is measured. Each quarter department heads and the Executive Director will report to the relevant board committee to review progress toward achieving the 3 year goals and performance against the budget. Each quarter the Board and the Executive Director will develop revisions to the plan and budget and report these changes to the staff. The CEMEX Redwoods Forest on the North Coast Land Trust of Santa Cruz County 617 Water Street Santa Cruz, CA

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