Earlier this year, the Land Trust launched its 2023-2027 Conservation Roadmap, which outlines the key priorities and initiatives that will define their projects over the next five years as they approach their 50th anniversary. These priorities align with the organization’s vision of a future in which the fantastic diversity of lands that define and connect people to the Santa Cruz County region—the wild and working forests, globally unique wildlife habitats, coastal landscape, and rich farming and ranching heritage—are cared for and preserved far into the future.
We weighed the opportunities before us against the costs, risks, and benefits to continue this work in the most innovative, science-based, and efficient way. Two of the most important questions we asked ourselves were, how urgent is the need for action and how severe is the no-action alternative? — Sarah Newkirk, Executive Director at the Land Trust
The strategic plan is the result of broad community outreach and months of planning among staff and board members. “We worked with a set of criteria to ensure our initiatives and projects not only align with our values but are within our capability and capacity,” said Sarah Newkirk, Executive Director at the Land Trust. “We weighed the opportunities before us against the costs, risks, and benefits to continue this work in the most innovative, science-based, and efficient way. Two of the most important questions we asked ourselves were, how urgent is the need for action and how severe is the no-action alternative?”
A Framework for the Future
The strategic plan identifies four key priorities:
1. Protect habitat for biodiversity and steward high-value, at-risk lands.
a. Establish a landscape linkage between the core habitats of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Gabilan Range to support wildlife movement and adaptation to climate change.
b. Protect and restore core habitats to recover the rare and endangered species that depend on Santa Cruz County.
2. Protect and manage working lands to address climate change and promote environmental sustainability.
a. Protect prime farmland from conversion and suburban sprawl, while increasing its sustainability through water conservation, flood management, and enhancement of biodiversity.
b. Deliver and model climate-friendly and environmentally sustainable working lands management on Land Trust properties, demonstrating the compatibility of profitable farming with wildlife, water quality, pollinators, and other values.
3. Create access to nature for all, especially under-resourced communities.
a. Open Watsonville Slough Farm to the public to learn about agriculture and habitats and enjoy local produce.
b. Leverage our expertise to mobilize partners to provide access to natural and working lands.
c. Deliver outstanding public access at select Land Trust properties that can be replicated elsewhere in Santa Cruz County.
4. Increase regional public investment and capacity for conservation lands management in Santa Cruz County.
a. Champion a county-wide open space funding measure.
“We are grateful to our private and public supporters and partners who play a pivotal role in achieving lasting conservation,” adds Newkirk. “We encourage everyone to view the strategic plan on our new website at landtrustsantacruz.org/resources.”
A New Look to Support a New Plan
Alongside the launch of its new five-year strategic plan, the Land Trust debuted a new website, visual identity, and brand designed to showcase Santa Cruz County in all its diversity. With the site’s streamlined navigation, the organization aims to attract and engage people of all ages in the Land Trust’s work and vision for the future. “We want people to explore and learn more about our natural environment and the work we are doing to support it,” said Newkirk. “We want our new logo—with its mountains, waterways, and agricultural lands—to be truly representative and embraced by members throughout Santa Cruz County. After all, none of our work would be possible without the generous support of our community, who are a part of everything we do.”
We are grateful to our private and public supporters and partners who play a pivotal role in achieving lasting conservation. — Sarah Newkirk, Executive Director at the Land Trust
About the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
The mission of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is to protect, care for, and connect all people to the vibrant natural and working lands that are essential for our community and nature to thrive together for generations to come. To learn more about us and donate to support our work, visit https://landtrustsantacruz.org/givetoday.