When POST protected 903-acre Butano Farms in 2012, we were given the opportunity to restore more than a mile of Butano Creek. Since then, working with our partners at the San Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD), we’ve made tremendous progress. Now, nearly a decade later, we are starting to see the impacts of our stewardship in this revived watershed.
To understand the importance of this creek to our local ecosystems, let’s take a step back and look at how it once functioned: For thousands of years, Butano Creek descended from high in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flowed freely past stands of towering redwoods before terminating in the calm waters of the Pescadero Creek Marsh. This creek would swell when full with heavy winter rains, spilling over its banks to flood the adjacent landscape and depositing its nutrient-rich sediment. In its natural state, it performed an essential function, supporting the entire watershed.
Unfortunately, after nearly two centuries of industrial logging, questionable agricultural practices and heavy road construction within the watershed, Butano Creek was disconnected from its historic floodplain and choked with too much sediment. As a result, it no longer functioned the way it once did, causing problems for both humans and wildlife. But your support has allowed us to complete a number of projects that have helped to put this landscape back into balance.
All of these projects have had a measurable impact — each nudging Butano Creek and its surrounding watershed toward a positive future. It’s clear though that the impact of this work is much greater than the sum of its parts. We’re witnessing its holistic recovery — and the momentum is building.
Here’s what we’ve done so far and what we hope to accomplish next:
We protected 903-acre Butano Farms, safeguarding over a mile of Butano Creek and over 100 acres of critically important floodplain habitat.
We took time to learn about this newly acquired property, chart a course for its restoration and initiate lease agreements with farmers and a rancher.
A careful inventory of the property’s road conditions informed our ongoing road repair work, which ultimately minimizes unwanted sediment from entering Butano Creek.
In close partnership with the RCD, we rehabilitated critical sections of the creek and reconnected it with over 100 acres of its historic floodplain. This section of creek now looks and functions the way it used to — the way nature intended.
Heavy winter rains caused a massive landslide along the creek’s bank, threatening the stability of one of the main thoroughfares for the town of Pescadero. Once again, we partnered with the RCD to make lasting repairs to the damaged section of creek.
To provide farm operators an alternative to drawing water directly from nearby creeks in the dry summer months — when wildlife need it most — we began the construction of a reservoir and wells along the watershed.
The RCD and State Parks removed large amounts of sediment from Pescadero Marsh — unplugging the blocked waterway and allowing salmon to, once again, return to the fresh waters of Butano Creek. This work, along with the restoration in 2016, also helped reduce flooding in the town of Pescadero.
The restoration and expansion of an existing pond helped maintain water availability for the property’s ranching tenant and improved conditions for endangered San Francisco garter snakes and threatened California red-legged frogs.
POST is currently spearheading the planning and development of the next wave of projects within the Butano Creek watershed. These projects will build upon our work to date and include: adding large wood structures within the creek to improve habitat; removing levees in key locations to reconnect the creek channel to the floodplain, increasing the amount of habitat typically inundated by winter floods; and pioneering new agricultural techniques that allow both wild and cultivated landscapes to coexist and thrive.
Seeing this watershed restored back to its former natural state has been incredibly rewarding, and with care, thoughtfulness and patience, we look forward to the continued recovery of this landscape.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more