Land could create continuous habitat corridor

Report offers 'greenprint' for protecting nearly 1 million acres

More than 1 million acres of private lands in the Bay Area, much of it deemed essential to the preservation of animal species, have been identified for potential conservation by the Bay Area Open Space Council, according to a massive new report.

"The Conservation Lands Network: San Francisco Bay Area Upland Habitat Goals Project Report 2011," released this fall, is the first regional study in the Bay Area, according to Ryan Branciforte, director of conservation planning for the Berkeley-based organization. It includes an online interactive mapping tool, Conservation Land Network Explorer, he said.

The report identifies land areas that would create a continuous mosaic of habitats and wildlife corridors, key to maintaining the Bay Area's biodiversity.

The report looked at habitats with irreplaceable rare and endemic species and vast tracts of intact plant types needed for biodiversity conservation. Five hundred plants, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates were identified along with the lands needed to support each species.

Already, 1.2 million acres of land in the Bay Area are protected. The report locates an additional 900,000 acres of "essential" lands that should be preserved, beginning at the inland edge of the baylands and extending to the outer county boundaries. It also identifies 200,000 acres that are "important to conservation goals," 120,000 acres in so-called "fragmented" areas that suffered substantial human impacts but are adjacent to protected areas, and 160,000 acres that need further investigation. The Stanford foothills encompass one such area, the study noted.

More than 43 organizations and landowners were involved in the study, which received funding from three private foundations: the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, along with several nonprofit and public agencies, including the California Coastal and Marine Initiative of the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.

Local areas deemed "essential" for protection include some of Stanford University's foothills and areas surrounding already protected lands. These include: north of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve; lands north of Sand Hill Road and west of Interstate 280 within Stanford; near 280 and Matadero Creek adjacent to Coyote Hill; south of Los Trancos Creek and east of 280; lands east and northwest of La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, south and west of Skylonda; large tracts surrounding Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve, west of Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains and overlooking Half Moon Bay; and land adjacent to Portola Redwoods State Park in La Honda and Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve near Los Altos Hills.

Open-space nonprofit groups praised the Conservation Lands Network report as a "greenprint" for conservation that can be incorporated into land, transportation, water and community planning. The network can be used as a guide for selecting lands for purchase, conservation-easement acquisition and cooperative agreements with private landowners. It is not intended to identify specific properties but takes a broad-brush approach, its authors said.

"It provides a landscape-level look for conservation planning," said Paul Ringgold, Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) vice president and head of stewardship. The report and online tool helped confirm areas where POST is focusing its preservation efforts and is helping to identify areas the agency might have missed, he said.

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of only five regions in the world with a Mediterranean climate and is noted for a high diversity of endemic species -- species found only in that one area and nowhere else, the study noted. Yet, it is one of the most ecologically imperiled. Eight of nine Bay Area counties fall within the top 20 counties in the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan areas where species are threatened by sprawl.

Santa Clara County has 36 imperiled species and ranks 17th and San Mateo County ranks 14th with 40 imperiled species, according to a 2005 study by the National Wildlife Federation, Smart Growth America and NatureServe.

The Bay Area supports 97 endangered or threatened species, according to the report. Landfills, highways, night lighting, predators and human settlement have impacted bird and mammal species, and gaps in ponds and connected water habitats affect amphibians and reptiles.

Ringgold said the report also provides a tool for describing the importance of lands to funders. The 1999 Baylands project, which focused on protection and restoration of historic tidelands around the Bay, resulted in $200 million in funding from Proposition 50, the Water Quality Supply and Safe Drinking Water Projects Bond that passed in 2002. The measure contributed to 45,000 acres of wetlands protection, according to the report.

The report can be viewed or downloaded at The online tool is available at

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm

The Open Spaces currently being preserved have only one purpose: as the future location of our houses, schools, roads and towns when their current locations are inundated as the seas rise as a result of global warming.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

That land is ripe for open space acquisition only because it has been downzoned below practical use. A beautiful way to steal someone elses' land

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I am all for open space. At some point or another all this land was stolen to begin with so while reasonable compensation needs to be in place the over-riding important thing is to preserve nature.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 15, 2011 at 7:05 am

In addition to protecting open space lands and terrestrial wildlife corridors between them, we also must ensure essential migration routes within our aquatic creek corridors. Impassable migration barriers, like Stanford University's 120-year old Searsville Dam, have severed a critical migration corridor for threatened steelhead trout and historic salmon runs from the Bay up San Francisquito Creek to spread vital oceanic nutrients throughout the watershed to the many starved open space ecosystems upstream including; Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Windy Hill Open Space, Coal Creek Open Space, and many more.

Our protected lands and Bay wetlands will continue to suffer while antiquated and non-essential dams like Searsville continue to impede and fragment wildlife passage, degrade downstream habitat and water quality, and starve Bay wetlands of sediment that is critical to their survival in the face of sea level rise.

Please find out more at:

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2011 at 11:08 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Down-zoning property preparatory to annexing it for wildlife corridors and such is just plain theft. The steelhead is a non-native species and salmon hatcheries more than make up for the natural and man caused vagaries of habitat.

Like this comment
Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2011 at 11:34 pm

This land is more valuable to humanity than it ever can be to a single individual.

Like this comment
Posted by Ok Good
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm

@Alice Smith - so presumably humanity will happily pay the individual owner the fair market value for it?

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Alice is a victim of the "Untouched wilderness" scam, a theory that except for man's interference, nature does nobly along. One look at the Grand Canyon should disprove that. Nature is always changing, mostly whether man cares or not, and mostly beyond man's control. Look at the coastal redwoods. Most of them are second growth, volunteer at that. People who benefit from wilderness designations are those who own recreation facilities and those select few [like Sierra Club upper classfolk] who are granted exceptions to the wilderness exclusion.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm

> Alice is a victim of the "Untouched wilderness" scam

In fact, Alice and anyone else who disagrees with you is just a victim of having their own opinions - always something that seems to set you off enough to come up with such entertaining responses.

Make your own point and let others make theirs.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 3,636 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 47 comments | 2,297 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,090 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 898 views

Migraines and motherhood
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 548 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.