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Peninsula conservation groups form partnership

Living Landscape Initiative gets $15 million grant

Conservation specialists concerned about a multi-county swath of Bay Area land announced Wednesday night that five organizations have joined forces to work more efficiently and protect natural resources in Northern California.

The Living Landscape Initiative is the new partnership announced on Wednesday of five Bay Area conservation groups based in Palo Alto, Santa Cruz County, San Francisco and Los Altos, a spokeswoman for the initiative said.

The organizations involved are the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, The Nature Conservancy, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save the Redwoods League and Sempervirens Fund, said Terry Corwin, executive director of Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The initiative was formed because the five agencies recognized that the environmental zones they were protecting overlap with each other, Corwin said.

"We're trying to do the most we can while using the least amount of money," she said. "That means working together in a very strategic way."

Strategy for Living Landscape includes a plan to protect more than 80,000 acres of land in key spots, including all of Santa Cruz County, parts of Mount Hamilton in Santa Cruz County, and ocean wetlands in various locations throughout the Bay Area. In an effort to help the new alliance, a Palo Alto-based foundation Wednesday night announced a $15 million grant for the initiative.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, founded in 2000 to advance environmental conservation, put up the $15 million grant as a challenge to Living Landscape, Corwin said. With the money, organizations in the initiative can come up with a financial plan for conservation, and the Moore foundation will put up one-quarter of the money within the plan.

"The money's not going anywhere yet," Corwin said.

Groups within Living Landscape are now meeting to come up with plans that will put the grant money to good use, she said. In one project, the Peninsula Open Space Trust and Sempervirens Fund are working to protect an 8,000-square-foot plot of land along the California coast in Santa Cruz County, Corwin said. The land is on the open market and could be purchased by a developer, but Living Landscape organizers hope to avoid that.

"We would rather see the land stay in its current state," Corwin said. "It's a really important habitat and wildlife corridor."

But she said it's important for people to understand that the groups' work is not just about making public spaces. The initiative is also looking for ways to keep land in the hands of private owners, too.

"Conservation doesn't always mean we want to buy land and turn it into a park," she said.

People can learn more about the initiative's work at www.livinglandscapeinitiative.org.

— Bay City News Service

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