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In the fall of 2016, representatives from the Amah Mutsun Tribal Council and Land Trust, POST, Sempervirens Fund, CAL FIRE and the Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council participated in the first ceremonial burn on historic Amah Mutsun land in over 200 years at POST-protected San Vicente Redwoods.
What I love about this story is that it reflects a new approach to land stewardship—one where individuals and organizations with different missions come together to achieve multiple common goals that can have far-reaching benefits across the landscape. It is this type of collaborative approach that will be essential for achieving our goal to preserve a resilient landscape where people and nature can thrive.
We’re experiencing the impacts of climate change—severe drought, sea level rise and an increased risk of catastrophic wildfire are all things we’re witnessing or preparing for within the state and our working area. Now, more than ever, plants and animals need room to roam, migrate and colonize. But nature doesn’t recognize the boundaries we’ve drawn for it, so this often means moving across property boundaries, jurisdictions and roads.
At the same time, our public lands have never been in greater demand as interest increases for opportunities to spend time in natural spaces—to escape from the bustle of the city, hike, explore or simply appreciate the beauty of nature. To meet these challenges, the way we approach our land stewardship work is also growing more complex.
In early 2015, POST participated as one of 19 founding members of the Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network (SCMSN) with me as their primary representative. Today, the SCMSN is comprised of 21 organizations, all working in their own ways to steward land within the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s a diverse group of park and open space districts, conservation nonprofits, academic institutions, timber companies, tribal groups, water agencies and local governments that have come together “to cultivate a resilient, vibrant region where human and natural systems thrive for generations to come.”
Forming a successful network is only possible because of the strong relationships between the participants. Early on, we spent a lot of time getting to know each other, not as representatives of our respective organizations, but rather as individuals with complex backgrounds and personal histories. This has made it much easier for us to feel comfortable picking up the phone to discuss a new project idea or brainstorm solutions to particularly thorny issues.
The relationships we’ve built through the SCMSN have given rise to projects that many of us would never had imagined. Like our projects with the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County fighting for endangered Coho salmon within San Vicente Creek by improving habitat in the creek and reconnecting floodplain habitat by removing clematis vitalba, a highly invasive non-native plant (both pictured above). Photos: Teddy Miller
It’s working! By coming together and working as a team, we’ve already had a lot of success being better stewards of our landscape. And it’s only the beginning, as our relationships deepen and our network matures, we will explore projects that engage more partners and cut across multiple properties.
Through the SCMSN, we are building with one another a shared vision of our landscape—not as a patchwork of detached, singular open spaces, but an intricate web of life that we too are a part of. And it’s only through this shared vision, that we will be able to tackle challenges at a scale commensurate with the ones we face.
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 76,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.