New Land Protection Projects
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s conservation objective in its 10-year plan entails adding to the roughly 2,000 acres already protected by OVLC by protecting an additional 2,020 acres by 2020 in four conservation priority areas. Land “protection” retains the traditional definition of simple (fee) acquisition, conservation or agricultural conservation easements, or potentially other types of permanent restrictions on land use. Furthermore, the concept of “protection” implies that the land uses that would be incompatible with OVLC values of sustaining important agricultural lands and maintaining and/or providing views, trails, water and wildlife would be precluded, even if allowable based on current zoning or public ordinances. In this context, “views” is shorthand for scenic or aesthetic resources, “trails” is shorthand for recreational and educational opportunities and “wildlife” is shorthand for habitat of important plants and animals.
The four conservation priority areas described were selected based on (1) the extent to which they possess or have the potential to possess the values (important agricultural land, views, trails, water & wildlife) OVLC seeks to protect, (2) opportunity, including willing landowners and partner interest including funding, and (3) momentum. With regard to momentum, the “conservation whole” is always greater than the sum of the parts, and new conservation projects contiguous to and building on old projects almost always offer a much greater benefit on a per acre basis than isolated projects in new areas.
Land Protection Priority Criteria
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has utilized a consistent, time-tested set of land protection criteria, aka conservation criteria over the years. As developed by OVLC’s Land Committee, the basic conservation criteria utilized by OVLC are and will remain as follows:
(1) Protection of scenic viewsheds.
(1a) Open space lands that serve as a scenic gateway to Valley communities;
(1b) key ridgeline, valley and canyon viewsheds as seen from public highways, roads, trails; and
(1c) lands that offer important visual relief and contrast to surrounding developed areas that possess outstanding visual variety or unique landscape features, and pastoral settings that help define the community’s rural character.
(2) Protection and enhancement of environmental values.
(2a) Native wildlife habitats, with special emphasis on preserving:
- Areas that support a diversity of habitats in close proximity
- Areas that enhance core habitat
- Areas that contribute to habitat connectivity
(2b) Sensitive, threatened, and endangered species and communities.
(2c) Areas with high restoration potential.
(3) Perpetuation of sustainable agriculture.
(3a) agricultural lands managed for crop production or grazing, especially those under threat of conversion to more intensive development and uses;
(3b) agricultural lands that are important to maintaining the critical mass of farmland both locally and regionally; lands that are important to the integrity of the local and regional agricultural industry;
(3c) sustainability—agricultural lands that are economically viable and compatible with adjoining lands.
(4) Provision of nature-based recreation and education opportunities.
(4a) nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities;
(4b) regional trail corridors or non-motorized trail connections between neighborhoods and natural areas;
(4c) environmental and cultural education experiences for school children and adults. Examples include areas ideally suited for short interpretive trails, universal trails (handicap-accessible) and field trips.
(5) Contribution towards sustainable use of ground and surface water in the Ojai Valley, including use of water in a way that supports the other conservation criteria.
In nearly all cases a particular parcel’s proximity to other protected lands would lead us to more highly rank a property with regard to its conservation value. In the evaluation of individual parcels as well as in the identification of conservation priority areas described below, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – contiguity with other protected lands is desirable all else equal.