Stories in California

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve

Preserving one of the last remaining coastal wildernesses for the advancement of science, education and inspiration.

Hills and coast seen from bunkers area on the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve.
The Dangermond Preserve Hills and coast seen from bunkers area on the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. © © Bill Marr/TNC

Big Picture

There aren’t many places on the Southern California coast that remain largely untouched by development. The Nature Conservancy’s Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve is one of them—exceptional in size, location and biodiversity. The preserve is a 24,364-acre property that sits at Point Conception—the sharp corner of coastline that gives California its distinctive crook. The land has been kept intact, free from significant development for nearly 100 years.

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve Saving the last perfect place in California

The preserve’s unusual geography makes it a globally important site for conservation. The coastline runs north-south above Point Conception and east-west below it; cold water currents from the north collide with warm water from the Santa Barbara Channel, creating diverse marine and terrestrial habitats unlike any other in the state. The preserve stretches from the coast to the Santa Ynez Mountains and includes chaparral, grassland, oak woodlands, coastal scrub, and closed-cone pine along eight miles of wild coastline.

We aim to learn from this special place with a research agenda that delivers insights for conservationists around the world.

MIKE SWEENEY California Executive Director and Managing Director Global Fisheries

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve was established at a pivotal moment, a time when the world is waking up to the vital need for environmental action. Countries around the world are seeking solutions and insights into how to rebalance human interaction with the natural world and set the planet on a path to a more hopeful, sustainable future. 

The preserve can serve as a platform for demonstrating how conservation can rise to this challenge. Our work is about more than just protection—this unique landscape will serve as a living laboratory, one that will facilitate the scientific research and environmental education needed to change the planet’s trajectory.

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve in Pictures

As a family-owned cattle ranch for over a century, the lands of the Dangermond Preserve have retained near-wilderness conditions. The preserve is a haven for last-of-their-kind natural and cultural resources, and a place where mountain lions still hunt marine mammals on the beaches.

Dangermond Preserve
Dangermond Preserve
Dangermond
Dangermond
Dangermond
Dangermond Owl

Dangermond Preserve Vision

We envision a wild and dynamic coastal landscape, protected and restored; a living laboratory of exceptional natural and cultural assets for scientific conservation research; a hub for technology and tools that allow us to share findings to scale globally; a site for discovery to engage the leaders of tomorrow, and widespread public commitment to conservation.

KEY GOALS:

  • CONSERVE NATURAL RESOURCES ensuring the future of biodiversity.

  • CONSERVE CULTURAL RESOURCES connecting human ecology and nature.

  • CONDUCT APPLIED CONSERVATION RESEARCH developing innovative solutions for a changing world.

  • ADVANCE CONSERVATION TECHNOLOGY leveraging 21st century capabilities.

  • EDUCATE AND ENGAGE providing transformative experiences in the natural world to youth and the community.

Conserve, Protect and Restore Natural Resources

The Point Conception region straddles a major ecological boundary where California’s Northern and Southern terrestrial and marine ecoregions meet. These ecoregions are some of the most biologically diverse in the world and have some of the highest concentrations of imperiled species in the country. The boundary between regions is an exceptionally rich zone of ecological transition and convergence with many species occurring at the northern or southern limits of their ranges. Offshore, two major oceanic currents meet and create especially rich marine systems, further elevating the region’s ecological and conservation significance. 

CLICK ON THE MAP BELOW TO EXPLORE THE PRESERVE

TNC uses a science-based approach to preserve planning and management. Our efforts focus on adaptively managing ecosystems to boost their resilience to catastrophic events and climate change, as well as supporting high levels of native plant and animal diversity, habitat structure and ecosystem function. There are three components to conservation of the outstanding natural resources at the Dangermond Preserve:

  • protection of intact natural systems, 
  • restoration of impaired ecosystems, and
  • adaptive management.

Over the last two years, TNC staff and partners have made major progress inventorying the preserve’s plants, wildlife and other natural features. New findings are made every year. We’ll update this list with each new discovery.

Dangermond Natural Resources by the Numbers

  • 24,364-acre coastal property

    24,364

    24,364-acre coastal property

  • Over 8 miles of undisturbed coastline with sandy beaches, rocky intertidal, coastal dunes

    8

    Over 8 miles of undisturbed coastline with sandy beaches

  • 50 miles of streams

    50

    50 miles of streams

  • 300 acres of wetlands

    300

    300 acres of wetlands

  • 9,000 acres of native and annual grassland

    9,000

    9,000 acres of native and annual grassland

  • 6,000 acres of oak woodland and forest

    6,000

    6,000 acres of oak woodland and forest

  • Over 200 wildlife species

    200

    Over 200 wildlife species

  • Nearly 600 plant species

    600

    Nearly 600 plant species

Conserve and Learn from Cultural Resources

Dangermond Preserve’s rich cultural history extends back over 9,000 years to some of the earliest human settlements in North America. 

In collaboration with the Chumash community, our team will protect and conserve cultural resources, which provide a rich history of human land use and lifeways, through stewardship of archaeological, ethnographic, and historical resources, partnerships with research institutions and local communities, and the use of the best available science, technology, management practices and decision support. To learn more about resource management plans for the preserve, check out the Dangermond Preserve Integrated Resource Management Plan.

Pioneer Conservation Research and Technology Innovation

The Dangermond Preserve’s setting—an exceptionally diverse near wilderness area just a few hours drive from dense urban population centers—presents extraordinary opportunities for science and learning. Through formal research, citizen science, and transdisciplinary collaboration, the preserve can play a pivotal role in understanding, quantifying, and promoting the value of wildness in an increasingly human-dominated world. TNC is partnering with research institutions to foster leading-edge collaboration, tech innovation, and data science to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of conservation. 

Technology for 21st Century Conservation

At the Dangerond Preserve, we are leveraging 21st century technologies to advance conservation. Below is a selection of the conservation science that technology is enabling on the preserve.

Dangermond Preserve Wildlife Photo Tour: We are using motion operated wildlife cameras to understand how wildlife populations use the preserve. By capturing images of wildlife, we can learn more about the population size, and spatial and temporal distribution of some of the preserve’s most important species. We plan to scale our work with wildlife cameras by combining this tool with other conservation tools like telemetry and GPS collars to gain an in-depth understanding of animal behavior in this unique place. Check out this photo tour for a glimpse of the many species that frequent the Dangermond Preserve.

Wildlife at the Dangermond Preserve

The Preserve serves as core and migratory habitat for wide-ranging mammal species. Check out this photo tour.

Restoration Dashboard: In Spring 2018, we embarked on a large-scale restoration project to re-plant over 150 acres of oak woodland. We collaborated with nearby nurseries and used coast live oak acorns and seedlings gathered from the preserve. This ongoing work is updated live in the operations dashboard where any user can check on the growth and health of each individual tree. This project depends on quick, reliable data capture and delivery, and it’s one of many exciting projects that technology is enabling on the preserve.

Oak Restoration Dashboard

Check out our coast live oak restoration project that is transforming 150 acres of former agricultural fields back to oak habitat which supports a suite of plants and animals that depend on these iconic trees.

Create a Platform for Education and Inspiration

The preserve offers unprecedented opportunities to inspire a new generation conservation leaders, and we are excited to share the ecological and cultural significance of this extraordinary place through a growing calendar of public programs. From interacting with top researchers on the effects of climate change to experiencing global marine animal migrations first hand, the preserve engages visitors in the power and importance of nature. 

At Nature's Crossroads
Dangermond Story Map At Nature's Crossroads © ESRI

A Story Map: At Nature's Crossroads

Check out the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, the last vast tract of coastal wilderness in Southern California, is protected for future generations.

We have begun piloting public learning and volunteer opportunities at the Dangermond Preserve in order to reach a wide variety of audiences and inspire action and service. All opportunities have been designed to ensure that the preserve continues to serve as a critical refuge for plants and wildlife and support the controlled conditions necessary to support scientific research of natural systems. 

Volunteer environmental restoration work days are offered throughout the year, giving the public opportunities to actively join in restoration efforts through planting, invasive plant removal and seed collection. Our environmental education programs are focused on providing experiences to youth who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit wild places, with a goal of supporting the development of the next generation of conservation leaders. The preserve has also begun exploring partnerships with local organizations, including museums and botanic gardens, to provide docent-led hikes for the members of the public. Please look for these opportunities on our calendar later this year.

(**Due to Covid-19, the Preserve is currently closed to visitation**)

Government Beach looking east toward Percos.
Dangermond Preserve Government Beach looking east toward Percos. © Bill Marr/TNC

Visiting the Preserve

We welcome the public to visit the preserve for one of our volunteer environmental restoration work days. We are also exploring partnerships with local organizations, including museums and botanic gardens, to provide docent-led walks on the preserve for the members of the public. A list of upcoming events and opportunities will be posted here as they are scheduled.

Staff Stories

Broadly distributed across California, mountain lions prefer areas of tree or shrub cover.
Mountain Lion Broadly distributed across California, mountain lions prefer areas of tree or shrub cover. © John Stuelpnagel

Scott Butterfield, Senior Scientist - 10/05/2019

I’ve been making regular trips to work on the Dangermond Preserve since TNC acquired the land, but recently I discovered a coastal stretch I’d never walked. I woke up at sunrise, left my phone behind to stay fully engaged, and set off to check it out.  

I saw wild pigs snuffling through the underbrush and deer running through the grasslands. On the beach, birds hopped through the sand and dipped their beaks into the bubbling intertidal zone. It was truly a moment to appreciate the preserve’s wild coast.

Up ahead I saw vultures circling, and there below them, a large animal was eating something. Initially I thought it was a big pig scavenging the beach, but as I got closer, I saw a long tail swish. It was a mountain lion! I stopped in my tracks. Suddenly I could hear my own heartbeat. I hunched over as though I could hide and watched the lion eat. Its wide paws sunk into the sand as it bowed its head low over its prey.

After what could have been five minutes or an hour, the lion finished and ran up the wash into the grasslands. I walked down the beach—I had to see what it was eating—in the place the lion had been I found a sea lion covered in sand. Lions don’t normally scavenge so it made me wonder if it had killed the sea lion while it was basking in the sun.

Let’s just say it was a nervous walk back to headquarters, but it was an experience I will never forget. 

Connect With Us

If you would like to learn more about our work or have questions about research, environmental education or public learning opportunities at the Dangermond Preserve, please contact us at dangermond-preserve@tnc.org.

TNC staff collect samples for a photographic biodiversity survey during one of the lowest tides of the year.
Dangermond TNC staff collect samples for a photographic biodiversity survey during one of the lowest tides of the year. © Bill Marr/TNC