The Tri-Counties hidden gem: It’s a nearly 25,000 acre nature preserve in Santa Barbara County

The surf is crashing onto the beach at one of the biggest, and most untouched nature preserves in the Tri-Counties. It’s home to miles of pristine coastline, rare plants and animals, and incredible scenic vistas.

Yet, most people don’t even know the massive Jack and Laura Dangermond preserve exists.

“The preserve is the just over 24,000 acres surrounding Point Conception,” said Dr. Elizabeth Hiroyasu. Hiroyasu is the Preserve Scientist. She’s taking us on a tour.

The landscape is spectacular, going from sea level to 1900 feet. There are eight miles of beaches, with 3,000 acres of wetlands, 6,000 acres of coastal oaks, and 7,000 acres of grasslands. But, what makes it truly special is the fact it’s where two very different environments connect.

“It’s a place of important mixing, both in the ocean and on land.” said Hiroyasu. “At Point Conception is where the Northern California and Southern California currents meet, there’s a large amount of mixing that occurs.

“It’s the northern extent of the range of some of the species from the south, and the southern extent of the range for some species from the north.”

The property’s history dates back to the Chumash. It was then a Spanish land grant, and a family owned the property for more than 100 years. Parts of it were operated as ranchland. What was known as the Cojo-Jalama Ranches then ended up in the hands of an investment company. But, a couple stepped up with a $165 million dollar contribution to preserve the land forever.

Jack and Laura Dangermond made the massive donation which allowed The Nature Conservancy to buy, and preserve the property.

That was in 2017. Now, Hiroyasu and other scientists are involved in major research efforts, with some 70 studies and projects centered around the preserve.

Part of them are focused on understanding what’s there, and studying rare plants and animals.

Other efforts center around restoring the land. One project involved planting Coastal Oak trees in areas where they had been removed for ranching.

One of the most ambitious projects is removing non-native iceplant. It’s a huge problem on the California Coast, where the plants have taken hold, pushing out native

They are hoping to share what they learn with others involved with habitat restoration projects. She says it’s an exciting place to be doing research, with so many things to explore.

The preserve isn’t open to the public, but you can get a glimpse by volunteering for one of the work days in which you help restore habitat. The Nature Conservancy is hoping to eventually add some docent led tours.

But, the important thing is this spectacular slice of California has been preserved, and is being protected forever.

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