Almanac Online : POST acquires 1,000 more acres of open space

December 2012 was a significant month for the Peninsula Open Space Trust. POST is richer in open space by nearly 1,000 acres after spending about $13.6 million for three tracts of land in December in San Mateo County on the western side of the Santa Cruz mountains.

The new acquisitions put the Palo Alto-based POST about halfway toward its goal of protecting 20,000 acres of remaining redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains. A five-year fundraising initiative called the Heart of the Redwoods Campaign has secured 9,700 acres since 2011, according to POST.

"Development and subdivision pose a serious threat not only to the health and longevity of our coastal redwood forests, but to our entire region's ecosystem," said POST President Walter T. Moore. "If we can connect isolated islands of protected open space into a resilient network of open lands, we will be able to secure and create a vibrant ecosystem for Silicon Valley."

Now protected from development and subdivision are La Honda properties Alpine Ranch and Driscoll Orchards, 353 acres and 318 acres respectively, and Butano Crest East and West, 320 acres near Pescadero.

Alpine Ranch shares borders with Pescadero Creek and Sam McDonald county parks and includes habitats for the California red-legged frog, the San Francisco garter snake, the San Mateo woolly sunflower, and steelhead trout -- a sojourning species that spends its adult life in the ocean and returns to its native creek to spawn.

"When I bought Alpine Ranch (in 1975), it was the beauty of the land and its great expanse that inspired love at first sight," said Deborah Ettinger in the POST announcement about the acquisition. "I never felt like I was its owner -- I was its caretaker. The most important thing to me was to keep the ranch intact. The transfer into POST's care is the right thing at the right time."

In Butano Crest, the habitats include chaparral, grassland, old growth redwoods and areas of Santa Cruz cypress and Anderson's manzanita. An endangered sea bird, the marbled murrelet, may nest in Butano's coastside redwoods, POST said.

Driscoll Orchards includes a small apple orchard as well as low-lying oaks, grasslands, coastal scrub and a "spectacular" redwood grove, according to POST. This purchase involved a $1 million grant from a collaboration of five land trusts that includes POST, and support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which also lent POST $6.2 million for the acquisition, POST said.

"My dad's goal," said Rudy Driscoll Jr., "was always to keep this property as open space. That's why we decided to sell to POST. It's wonderful now to see my dad's dream completed."