Range of the Condor National Heritage Area

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A organizational summary by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


The Range of the Condor National Heritage Area is a proposed new National Heritage Area (NHA) spanning an area defined by the current range of the California Condor.

This NHA designation would facilitate collaboration between stakeholders (including government agencies and non-governmental organizations) for preservation, maintenance, project planning, and other land management duties throughout the area. NHAs also receive advising from the National Park Service (NPS) on technical and planning issues, as well as limited financial assistance.


The vision for the Range of the Condor National Heritage Area includes all the traditional benefits NHAs confer to a region, in addition to novel assets at this particular area, including:

  • Preservation of habitat, especially for animals significant to the area's heritage like California Condors.
  • Continuity between the Range of the Condor NHA and adjacent protected lands and coastal waters, offering exciting opportunities for research and recreation across uninterrupted wildlands, from the mountains to the sea.
  • Increased public access to land via new and improved trails, educational programs, and more.
  • Bolstered economic activity and jobs, including eco-tourism and new project development, throughout the region.
  • Public education on wildfires, fostering a new public attitude towards fires and fire management.
  • Completion of The Condor Trail, which could be an iconic feature of the NHA and the State of California.
  • Construction of a 'University Trail' running between state universities in Monterey Bay and San Luis Obispo.


NHAs across the country differ in their operational structure. The NHA designation by Congress doesn't dictate a specific organizational hierarchy; only the oversight role of the National Park Service. Thus, new NHAs can look to existing ones for organizational blueprints, in addition to developing their own system that works locally. Some components of NHAs relevant to the Range of the Condor NHA are listed within the comparative table of selected National Heritage Areas. A range of goals and missions of all existing NHAs can be found in the missions, planning, and administration section.

Local Coordinating Entities

NHAs are managed by Local Coordinating Entities (LCEs). The LCE can be a non-profit organization or a non-federal governmental organization. LCE responsibilities include creating the NHA management plan, finding external funding, and overseeing cooperation between partner organizations.

Examples of responsibilities of LCE managing a NHA[1]

  • Promoting heritage-based tourism within the area
  • Developing educational programs based on the historical context of the region
  • Restoration and conservation of the Heritage area
  • Rehabilitating historic buildings

The Non-Profit LCE option

Most NHAs are managed by non-profit organizations acting as the LCE (see Comparative table of selected National Heritage Areas). Examples include:

If the RCNHA is to be managed by a non-governmental organization, then this role could be played by the existing Conservancy for the Range of the Condor.

Governmental LCE

Some NHAs are managed by non-federal government organizations acting as the LCE (see Comparative table of selected National Heritage Areas). Examples include:

Note that federal organizations do not act as LCEs because this is contrary to the intent of having a Local Coordinating Entity.

If the RCNHA is be managed by a government organization, then logical choices for the LCE might be CDFW or State Parks. The CDFW is responsible for managing numerous Special Status Species in the Central Coast Region. The CDFW is also the agency that works with the U.S Army to manage hunting and fishing on Army bases, such as Fort Hunter Liggett.


NHA creation generally requires cooperation between multiple agencies, which may be established through a Memorandum of Understanding, Memorandum of Agreement, or a Joint Powers Agreement. These agreements would be between the NPS, the local management entities, and the main LCE of the NHA. MOU agreements have been used to create other NHAs in the United States, such as the Mormon Pioneer NHA and the Great Basin NHA [2].

JPAs are widely used for various purposes in the California Central Coast Region, such as California Community Power CCP which is a JPA created to combine energy buying power while advancing local and state climate goals. [3].

Operational function

The operational fnuction of the RCNHA could involve:

  • Implementation of the NHA management plan
  • Regular meetings among partners
  • Public outreach and promotion of the NHA vision
  • Procurement of external funding
  • Construction of facilities such as trail heads and trails
  • Hosting conferences, workshops, & seminars
  • Restoration and conservation of naturally functioning landscapes


The Range of the Condor National Heritage Area is proposed by the Conservancy for the Range of the Condor and former Congressman Sam Farr.

Key Partners

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There are many organizations that manage land and wildlife within the proposed Range of the Condor National Heritage Area. These organizations and their potential roles are summarized below, with further details tabulated in a separate page.

National Park Service (NPS)
The NPS manages approximately 513,150 acres of land within the proposed area for the Range of the Condor NHA. Parks within this area include Pinnacles National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and César E. Chávez National Monument. The NPS is also the federal agency in charge of general National Heritage Area oversight, assisting in funding and helping with cohesive management within the local communities.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The BLM manages over 85,000 acres of habitat conservation areas and other public lands in the California's Central Coast Region, including Fort Ord National Monument (FONM), California Coastal National Monument (CCNM), Carrizo Plain National Monument, and Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA). The National Monuments and Special Management Areas are located in geographically important habitats for the historic range of the California Condor and as a result, would be valuable corridors within the Range of the Condor NHA.
US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Since 1992, USFWS has operated the California Condor Recovery Program, which breeds and reintroduces California Condors to the wild. The USFWS also manages designated critical habitat for the California Tiger Salamander, and the Pacific Southwest Region office previously worked with state agencies to create a species recovery plan that started in 2017. The USFWS also manages the National Wildlife Refuge System, which consists of a total of 26,303 acres out of the seven wildlife refuges in the Range of the Condor National Heritage Area. Due to its involvement in the California Condor Recovery Program, and its role in Central Coast conservation and management, the USFWS would be a strong partner for the Range of the Condor NHA.
United States Forest Service (USFS)
The USFS manages 4,222,701 acres of National Forest land that are partially located in the proposed area for the Range of the Condor NHA. These forests include Los Padres National Forest (LPNF), Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, and Sequoia National Forest. The USFS's mission is to maintain and improve the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands, and focuses on managing vegetation, restoring ecosystems, reducing hazards, and maintaining forest health [4]. As of 2014, 103 California Condors were surveyed in LPNF [5]. Additionally, within the southern region of LPNF lies the Sespe Condor Sanctuary which provides critical protected habitat for the California Condor, making the USFS an ideal partner for the Range of the Condor NHA.
United States Army
The Department of Defense's Army Department owns and manages over 223,200 acres of land in the California Central Coast Region that would potentially fall within the Range of the Condor NHA. This land is primarily used for the training and education of members of the U.S. Army. The Department of Defense and the The Conservation Fund have partnered to prevent residential encroachment near military boundaries, create buffer projects to preserve habitat, provide supportive education, and assist with regional planning. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is also the leading federal agency pursuing civil works projects ranging from flood control to ecosystem restoration and has a significant reach and impact on the nation's natural resources and aquatic ecosystems. It oversees thousands of civil works projects and the Clean Water Act 404 Regulatory Program [6]. USACE may be an organizational partner in coordinating the management of the NHA with the U.S. Army and other agencies.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA manages over 7,500 square miles of coastal ocean along the California Central Coast within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. These marine sanctuaries exemplify the strong connection between California's Central Coast region and protection of the natural environment, and they generate large amounts of tourism and recreational revenue by drawing interest to the beauty of this region. NOAA conducts large-scale research and monitoring programs along the coast, and collaborates with many local research institutions and organizations to promote environmental stewardship and future resiliency. The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) also manages commercial and recreational fisheries within the Central Coast region and is responsible for issuing permits related to the Endangered Species Act. NMFS coordinates with Regional Fishery Management Councils and other local partners, funds fisheries research, and provides jobs to many coastal-dependent communities. California Condors rely on healthy coastal ecosystems to provide the carrion of marine mammals such as whales and sea lions that wash up on the beaches of the Central Coast Region.[7]
Native American Tribes
The California Condor has been an important symbol for Native Americans that represents the wilderness heritage of the Central Coast Region. It has been regarded as the "most impressive and majestic flying bird in North America," and has captured the attention of Native peoples throughout its history [8]. The proposed Range of the Condor National Heritage Area would span at least a dozen different pre-contact tribal lands, [9] and would encompass several current reservations and rancherias[10]. Archaeologists have found evidence to suggest the use of California Condors during rituals of early peoples in California, and other ceremonies included dancers wearing capes of condor skins and feathers [11]. Some Native peoples believed condors could "infuse" them with special powers. For example, because of the condor's extraordinary eyesight, some tribes within the California Central Coast Region believed wearing cloaks of condor feathers would grant them powers to find lost valuables and people [12]. In 2018, the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County received a grant from the California Natural Resources Agency that allowed them to reclaim a 1,199-acre ranch along the northern slopes of the Little Sur River. This sacred land will be used by tribal members for traditional ceremonies, native plant gatherings, and the repatriation of tribal members. The Esselen Tribe's partnership with the Western Rivers Conservancy to conserve the native plants and wildlife of the land represents an important natural and cultural conservation success in the Central Coast Region [13].
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)
The CDFW manages over 69,000 acres of land in the California Central Coast Region that would be encompassed by the Range of the Condor NHA. These areas include the Big Sandy Ecological Reserve, the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve, and the Semitropic Ecological Preserve. The CDFW also manages wildlife on U.S. Army properties including Fort Hunter Liggett where hunters and fisherman can purchase an annual permit for $125 to access the property (as of 2021), any harvested animals have a tooth and hair samples taken for age and other biological analysis. There is also a region-wide reporting program in place to report sick or injured animals to the CDFW. Through this program, they are able to keep biological health records of specific animal populations in the area and can track disease spread. This kind of watch program is essential when assisting in the re-establishment of a species population, such as the California Condor. This partnership with wildlife management on the U.S. Army lands allows the CDFW to have a broader scope of collaboration with varying agencies within the proposed Range of the Condor NHA.
Non-profit organizations
Private Landowners with Conservation Easements
Private landowners who seek to partner with the NHA can place a conservation easement on their property and could waive the right to develop or mine their land. Landowner partners would retain the ownership and use of their land. [14] In California's Central Coast region, a notable example of this form of partnership is the Hearst Ranch Conservation Easement in an agreement with the State of California. [15]



  1. Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area [Cited March 2021]
  2. From Skepticism to Support: National Heritage Areas in the West [Cited March 2021]
  3. [Cited March 2021]
  4. U.S Forest Service [Cited March 2021]
  5. Los Padres Forest Watch [Cited March 2021]
  6. U.S. Department of Defense. The Conservation Fund. [Cited March 2021]
  7. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/California_Condor/lifehistory
  8. Wings of the Spirit: California Condor [Cited March 2021]
  9. California Tribal Communities [Cited March 2021]
  10. California Tribal Lands [Cited March 2021]
  11. Wings of the Spirit: California Condor [Cited March 2021]
  12. Wings of the Spirit: California Condor [Cited March 2021]
  13. Esselen Tribal Lands Conservation Project [Cited March 2021]
  14. Range of the Condor - About
  15. http://www.hearstranch.com/conservation/ Hearst Ranch]


This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.