CEMEX redwoods, crucial piece of Santa Cruz conservation puzzle

CEMEX Redwoods is located near the site of the former CEMEX cement plant overlooking the small coastal town of Davenport just north of Santa Cruz, CA. The 8,532-acre property is the largest private landholding in Santa Cruz County. It extends from gently rolling hillsides along Highway 1 through steep, forested slopes reaching all the way to the ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Conservation of CEMEX Redwoods will link 26,000 acres of contiguous protected lands and provide a critical wildlife linkage in the face of growing impacts on habitat from climate change.

The $30 million purchase of CEMEX Redwoods is the first major project of the Living Landscape Initiative, a collaboration launched in early 2011 comprised of five conservation groups. The goal of the Initiative is to protect 80,000 acres of land in and around Silicon Valley over the next 20 years within four areas of focus: Coastal Lands, Redwood Heartland, Pajaro River Corridor, and Essential Links.

The Packard Foundation is proud to support this initiative, collaborating with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to provide funding through Resources Legacy Fund’s Living Landscape Initiative Challenge Grant Program. The Packard Foundation is also providing a $2.5 million low-interest loan to Sempervirens Fund to help finance the acquisition through the foundation’s Program-Related Investment Program. In addition, The San Francisco Foundation has contributed $150,000 to the project.

Some development scenarios suggested that the 8,532-acre property could be carved up to accommodate construction of up to 69 luxury housing units. Fortunately, the nonprofit groups coming together to save this land now will craft a conservation plan to ensure permanent protection of the property’s extraordinary natural resources and recreation potential. “Part of the vision for the property is to establish scientifically planned redwood reserves and restore water quality and fish and wildlife habitat,” said Ruskin K. Hartley, executive director of Save the Redwoods League. “Through diligent stewardship, old forest habitat can remain protected while facilitating growth and development of younger stands of trees and reducing the impact of commercial harvest.”

“We have been pleased with our partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Resources Legacy Fund to fund this rather innovative yet effective collaboration of local land trusts to accomplish the goals of the Living Landscape Initiative,” said Curt Riffle, Packard Foundation program officer.  “The CEMEX Redwoods project is proof that this new approach not only works but may become the “new norm” for strategic and impactful land conservation in the Bay Area.”