Big Sur Land Trust (BSLT)

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This wiki page was created by students in the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.

Big Sur Land Trust is a non-profit located in Monterey, CA. The trust promotes conservation of ecologically important lands and waters in Monterey County.[1]


The Big Sur Land Trust (BSLT) is a private non-profit located in Monterey, California. The trust conserves land in California's Central Coast Region for the benefit of people and the environment. BSLT protected 40,000 acres of land as of 2016 and manages ~17,000 acres of conservation easements. [1] [2] It also partners with land owners to maintain natural resources and prevent development in perpetuity. The organization envisions cooperative and mutually beneficial management of land resources that supports communities and improves the environment. BSLT benefits local communities by providing open space for recreation, educational opportunities, and hands-on land stewardship.


Big Sur Land Trust headquarters are located in Monterey, California. The organization manages properties within Monterey County. Circle M Ranch near Lucia, CA is the most southern property and Vierra Ranch and Rancho Colinas in the foothills of the Gabilan Mountains are the most northern properties. [3]

History & Founders

In 1978, the Big Sur Land Trust was formed by seven families who envisioned preserving the iconic Big Sur landscape for the benefit of future generations. [4] Nancy Hopkins was BSLT's first president. She was succeeded by Zad Leavy who served as executive director for 25 years. [4] David Packard [4] and several others [5] helped the land trust purchase its first property, a 3,000 acre ranch located south of Big Creek Reserve.

Mission & Organization Structure

Big Sur Land Trust connects local communities to the land and promotes conservation of landscapes unique to the California central coast such as coastal redwoods and grasslands, oak woodlands, and spawning locations for threatened steelhead trout. [2] BSLT achieves this mission by providing opportunities for citizens to engage with nature through land conservation and environmental education. [2] In 2013, BSLT developed summer nature camps to teach youth in Monterey County the value of natural spaces and inspire future generations of land stewards. [2]

Prior to 2013, BSLT's mission was to conserve significant lands and waters of California's Central Coast and focus on purchasing property for conservation in perpetuity. However, due to economic constraints from increasing property values and decreasing public agency budgets, BSLT reprioritized their goals to make a broader impact. Elements of the new mission include developing nature camps and green landscape infrastructure such as parks and trails. [6]

Board of Trustees

As of 2015, The BSLT Board had 16 board members. The board includes 12 trustees and four administrators: board chair, co-chair, treasurer, and secretary. The board is supported by a 10 member advisory council. [7]


BSLT receives support through memberships, private donations, and public conservation funds. Recently, BSLT secured grants for the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement [8] project and the Carr Lake Project. [9]


As property values continue to rise in California's Central Coast Region partnerships are essential to BSLT's mission success. Principle partners include The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, and the California Natural Resources Agency. More information about other state, federal, and community partners can be found on the BSLT partnership page[10]

Land Acquired and Managed

The Big Sur Land Trust uses three key strategies to promote land conservation and improve natural spaces:

  1. Land Acquisitions: The purchase of land by the trust. BSLT obtains the property rights and can choose to retain the land in perpetuity or coordinate with another organization to transfer the property into a larger conserved area.
  2. Land Transfers: Land transfers are instances where BSLT acquired property and then sold or donated the land to another party with similar conservation interests. When lands are transferred it is agreed they will remain undeveloped. Typically transfers result in the incorporation of the property into a larger park.
  3. Conservation Easements: An agreement between BSLT and private property owners to preserve land without transferring ownership. Property owners work with the trust to prevent development and conserve resources in perpetuity. [11]

Land Ownership

Conserved lands acquired or protected by agreements with the Big Sur Land Trust. In 2016, BSLT helped to conserve about 40,000 acres in Central California. Imaged sourced from the Big Sur Land Trust Landscapes page.

The table below summarizes major BSLT acquisitions. The information was complied using the landscape map available on the BSLT webpage and other sources. [12]

Property Name Estimated Acreage Location Year Acquired
Arroyo Seco Ranch 1,675 Greenfield, CA 2007
Circle M Ranch 3,040 Lucia, CA 1978
Glen Deven Ranch 860 Big Sur, CA 2001
Marks Ranch 816 Near Toro County Park (HWY 68) 2007
Mittledorf Preserve 1,057 Santa Lucia Foothills 1990
  • Arroyo Seco Ranch: A future site for environmental education and recreation programs. BSLT is coordinating a conservation grazing program to manage grassland resources responsibly. Unique and threatened species located on Arroyo Seco Ranch include the sycamore alluvial woodland forest, California Red-legged frog, and Steelhead Trout. The Arroyo Seco River runs through the property and has been prioritized for steelhead habitat restoration.
  • Circle M: First property purchased by BSLT in 1978.
  • Glen Deven Ranch: Located in the iconic Big Sur landscape and surrounded by central coast grasslands and woodlands. Many coastal perennial rivers and wildlife habitats are protected on the property. The property is also hosts summer nature camps where youth learn about coastal ecosystems.
  • Marks Ranch: Once an egg farm and cattle ranch, now it serves as a gathering location for Salinas and Monterey Peninsula families to enjoy the outdoors. BSLT transferred much of the property to Monterey County to merge with Toro County Park. The trust continues to host recreational events on the Ranch and improve facilities on the property.
  • Mitteldorf Preserve: Located between Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve (south), Palo Corona Regional Park (north), and Santa Lucia Preserve (east). Mitteldorf conserves the largest redwood trees in Monterey County. It also protects madrone, oak woodland, coastal chaparral, and grassland habitats. Currently, BSLT is developing infrastructure for a nature camp and research program on the property.

Other BSLT properties include:

  • Canavarro
  • Carmel Point
  • Carmel River Songbird Preserve
  • Curtis
  • Kopp
  • Gelbart
  • Glen
  • Mission Trails
  • Murphy
  • Notley's Landing
  • Odello East
  • Owens
  • Tor House

Conservation Easements

BSLT protects lands through numerous partnerships and conservation easements. Easements ensure the protection of resources found on allocated properties and prohibit land development in perpetuity. BSLT and land owners agree donated lands will be managed under terms reflective of the conservation values and intentions of both parties.

Name Acreage
Addleman 285 [13]
Dorrance 4,300 [14]
Horse Pasture 160 [13]
Mule Creek Canyon
Patterson St. Lucia
Patterson Mayor
Patterson Lime Creek
Rancho Colinas 1,110 [15]
Vierra Ranch 965 [15]
Violini 3,200 [14]

Land Transfers

BSLT collaborates with state and regional agencies and other conservation partners to preserve larger extents. Many lands purchased or donated to BSLT are transferred to regional park districts or federal land management agencies. Land transfers help expand habitat for wildlife and native plant populations within watersheds. Listed below are some lands BSLT helped conserve through land transfers and key habitats or resources they protected. Transfer names indicate the park or property the lands were incorporated into.

Land Transfers
Transfer Name Former Name Acreage Year Transferred Location Key Habitat and Resources
Ewoldsen Big Sur, CA
Granite Rock Dunes 51 [16] 2001 Marina, CA Coastal dunes habitat and multiple endangered species[16]
Henry Miller Library Big Sur, CA Cultural site
Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve 640 [17] South of Carmel Valley Highlands, CA Coastal redwoods
Kent Big Sur, CA
Long Valley/ Elkhorn Slough Foundation 4,260 (with The Nature Conservancy) [18] 1999 East of Moss Landing,CA Oak woodland and maritime chaparral
Mill Creek Redwood Preserve 1,534 [19] Between Big Sur and Carmel, CA Coastal redwoods
Monterey State Beach Seaside, CA Coastal dune
Palo Corona Ranch ~10,000 (with partners) [20] 2004 Carmel Valley, CA Coastal grasslands and woodland, ponds, and perennial creeks. [17]
Point Lobos Ranch 1,312 [21] Carmel Valley, CA Monterey Pine Forest, Gowen Cypress, and maritime chaparral [22]
Prentiss Big Sur, CA
San Carlos Beach Park Monterey, CA
Toro County Park Marks Ranch 737 [23] 2010 West of Salinas, CA Oak woodland and maritime chapparal [24]
Zmudowski State Beach North of Moss Landing, CA Coastal dunes
Martin Dunes* 125 North of Marina, CA Coastal dunes
  • Martin Dunes is privately owned in partnership with the Big Sur Land Trust.


BSLT works on a number of projects in the Monterey County region. Projects focus on the expansion of preserved natural habitat for unique central coast species, and increasing the opportunities available for community members to connect with the environment. An expanded explanation of recent projects undertaken by BSLT is given below.

Lobos-Corona Parklands Project

The Lobos-Corona Parklands Project is a collaboration between the Big Sur Land Trust, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD), California State Parks, and the Point Lobos Foundation. BSLT was a leader in a number of components of the Lobos-Corona project including developing the Carmel River Parkway Project and the South Bank Trail. The organization has also contributed to land acquisition and development at Palo Corona Regional Park. [25]

  • The Carmel River Parkway is a conservation plan to restore and enhance the Carmel River ecosystem. A major component of the plan is development of a recreational trail to connect the lower Carmel Valley to upper reaches of the watershed. [13] Trail networks provide community members safe places to recreate and promote the connection of community and nature.
  • South Bank Trail: Located in Carmel Valley on the south bank of the Carmel River, the South Bank Trail is a 1.5 mile ADA accessible pedestrian and bicycle path. It begins at Palo Corona Regional Park and continues to Quail Lodge. The project was funded in part by a $1.2 million grant from the California Resource Agency River Parkways Program and was designed by the County of Monterey. [26] The South Bank Trail section was completed in 2011 and is an integral part of the Carmel River Parkway vision plan.
  • Palo Corona Regional Park Project: BSLT purchased the Whisler Wilson Ranch property in 2010 [21] and sold the property to MPRPD in 2013. The property spans the east side of Hwy 1 from Carmel to Pt. Lobos and connects Palo Corona Regional Park to Point Lobos Ranch. [27] In collaboration with MPRPD, BSLT developed the 4.5 mile Hatton Canyon recreational trail that connects the top of Carmel Hill to the lower Camel River Trail System at Carmel Valley Road.[13] BSLT also helped establish a visitor access and land management plan [13] to address land manag ment issues such as:

Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement

Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement (Carmel River FREE) Project seeks to restore the natural hydrology of the Carmel River near the Carmel Lagoon and minimize flood risk. Completion of this project will provide ancillary benefits such as: [28]

  • Improved habitat for steelhead in various development stages.
  • Increased connectivity between the river channel, floodplain, and lagoon.
  • Restoration of native riparian and grassland habitat.
  • Reduced flood risk for businesses and residences in Lower Carmel Valley.

Carr Lake Multi-Use Park

The Conversion of Carr Lake to a Multi-Use Park is one BSLT's longest running efforts. Carr Lake is a 500- acre undeveloped space in the middle of Salinas, presently dominated by farmland. The runoff from farmland in this area is drained by a reclamation ditch that cuts through the middle of Carr Lake and flows northeast toward Tembladero Slough and the Old Salinas River. [29] Accretion of sediments in the reclamation ditch has increased flood risk to surrounding homes. The city of Salinas and BSLT are working on a plan to re-purpose the land and create a community park. In January 2016, BSLT received a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to acquire the land and begin restoration. [9] The park will provide many benefits to the area such as:


  1. 1.0 1.1 BSLT, Home Page
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 BSLT, FAQ
  3. BSLT, Landscapes
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sam Farr Tribute
  5. Big Sur Gazette 1979
  6. BSLT, 2013 New Mission
  7. BSLT, Trustees
  8. Freeing the river to use its floodplain, BSLT newsletter
  9. 9.0 9.1 Coastal Conservancy Funding 2016
  10. BSLT, Partners
  11. Conservation Easements
  12. BSLT, Landscapes
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 BSLT, newsletter 2007
  14. 14.0 14.1 Monterey Herald 2008
  15. 15.0 15.1 BSLT, Vierra Ranch
  16. 16.0 16.1 Monterey County Weekly 2001
  17. 17.0 17.1 MPRPD Palo Park
  18. EHS Cons.Plan 2009
  19. MPRPD Mill Creek Purchase
  20. MPRPD Palo Purchase
  21. 21.0 21.1 Monterey County Weekly 2012
  22. Lobos Ranch Park Property
  23. Monterey Herald 2012
  24. Van Dyke and Holl 2003
  25. Lobos-Corona Vision Plan
  26. Yuba News
  27. BSLT Whisler-Wilson
  28. BSLT, Carmel River FREE
  29. Reclamation Ditch



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