CENTRAL COAST — Located in California’s Central Coast, the 160-acre Church Creek property overlooks the wild, sharp-crested ridges and steep valleys of the interior coastal range.
The private property is in the heart of the Ventana Wilderness, west of the Salinas Valley, and connects to over 2 million acres of public lands that provide critical wildlife habitat in the middle of a biodiversity hotspot. This week, The Wilderness Land Trust purchased the property from the San Francisco Zen Center.
With several streams, the Church Creek property maintains important habitat resources for resident and migrating species in this dry landscape. The property also provides public access with a trailhead connecting two popular trails, the Church Creek Trail and Horse Pasture Trail.
With incredible vistas, flat building sites and access via a public road, the Church Creek property would have been at high risk of development had it sold to a private buyer. With the purchase complete, the Trust will work with Los Padres National Forest with the goal of transferring the property to public ownership.
The property was owned by the San Francisco Zen Center in connection to its nearby Tassajara Mountain Zen Center. Together, the San Francisco Zen Center and The Wilderness Land Trust have ensured the threat of development is removed, and the property will become public lands for all to enjoy.
“There’s an old Zen saying: ‘If I take care of the mountains, they will take care of us.’ We share this quality of intimate connection with nature with the Wilderness Land Trust, and we deeply appreciate the protection and care this land will continue receiving in the future,” said Sozan Miglioli, president of San Francisco Zen Center.
Church Creek is the seventh property protected by the Trust in the Ventana Wilderness, and the 242nd property in California, totaling 37,000 acres.
Across the West, there are over 180,000 acres of privately owned property within federally designated wilderness areas known as inholdings, ranging from a few acres to thousands of acres. Each one represents a hole in the fabric of wilderness protection — a threat to the wild character and ecological integrity of the lands surrounding them.
“Each one carries the possibility of development and resource extraction in the heart of some of the grandest landscapes in the American West,” according to The Wilderness Land Trust. “In the organization’s 31-year history, The Wilderness Land Trust has worked to acquire these private inholdings from willing landowners, transferring them to public ownership to become designated wilderness.”
In this time, the Trust has purchased and transferred 541 properties totaling over 55,500 acres from Arizona to Alaska. Along the way, it has completed 17 wilderness areas by removing their last remaining private inholdings.
“With each transfer, we come one step closer to completing the vision of the Wilderness Act,” stated the Trust in a news release. “Each project we work on carries the story of a place that has inspired countless people and communities, a family that has chosen to give up what is theirs to protect its future, and a vibrant, and often breathtaking, landscape supporting rich biodiversity.”