Scenic Monterey County, one of the ecologically richest areas along California's central coast, features almost every major type of natural community in the state. Vast expanses of the county remain largely undeveloped, unfragmented, and connected to wilderness areas by wildlife corridors. But the county's natural areas, scenic beauty, and largely rural character are at risk from development and from the increasingly rapid conversion of oak woodlands, savannas and wildflower fields to other uses. The Monterey County Project was established in 2001 to conserve high-priority sites and critical ecological linkages identified by the Conservancy's scientific planning process.
The region comprises 1.625 million acres (2,540 square miles).
The project area extends from scenic Monterey Bay south to Big Sur. From the Pacific Ocean, the project extends inland to about 10 miles east of Highway 101.
Today, Monterey County's natural values are at risk from the rapid conversion of ranches, farms, and oak woodlands to vineyards and subdivisions. The county is part of California's Central Coast ecoregion, which scientists have identified as one of the most threatened ecoregions in the world. Monterey County is also facing the loss of prime agricultural land, a decline in the economic viability of ranching, and increasing pressure on the water supply. All these threats are compounded by the lack of a broadly accepted regional vision for protecting the county's finest natural resource areas and guiding future growth into less environmentally sensitive locations.
We are combining land protection with community-based conservation and a sustained effort to introduce good conservation principles into public policy and land-use planning. Working with local organizations and public agencies, we are helping to shape a "conservation blueprint" aimed at safeguarding the county's finest natural areas for future generations.
Over the next several years, the Conservancy and its partners plan to purchase or acquire conservation easements on key lands in the highly threatened, biologically rich conservation areas identified by our scientific planning. Some of these properties include wildlife corridors that must be preserved if native species are to survive.