Places We Protect

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve

California

Staff at The Nature Conservancy collect tide pool samples during low tide.
Dangermond Preserve Research TNC staff collect samples for a photographic biodiversity survey during one of the lowest tides of the year. © Bill Marr/TNC

The last wild expanse of California coastline becomes a living laboratory.

Overview

Description

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve has been called the last perfect place in California. Tucked below Southern California’s jagged Point Conception, the preserve encompasses 24,000 breathtaking acres of coastal sage scrub, oak-filled valleys and crumbling ocean bluffs. Many species reach the southern or north edges of their terrestrial ranges here, and two major ocean currents meld offshore to create rich marine ecosystems. Free from significant development for a century, the area has retained near-wilderness conditions—it’s a place where mountain lions still hunt marine mammals on the beach. Artifacts from 9,000 years of human lifeways paint an additionally rich historical picture.

A conservation laboratory

TNC is able to preserve and study this historic place thanks to one of the largest gifts in the organization’s history from Jack and Laura Dangermond. The couple founded Esri, a leading geographic information systems technology company. Their goal, along with TNC, was to establish a gold star nature preserve that could facilitate conservation technology sharing worldwide. That goal is being realized at the Dangermond Preserve. The area’s rare sea-to-skyline ecosystems have already become a rich laboratory for scientists, policymakers and educators as the world works to rebalance human interaction with nature in the face of climate change.

Access

Limited Access

Size

24,364 acres

Explore our work in California

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve (3:14) Experience the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve through the eyes of our scientists at The Nature Conservancy. From large-carnivore research to archaeology, the advances being made here are leading the scientific community across the globe.
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 to provide docent-led walks on the preserve for the members of the public. A list of events and opportunities will be posted here as they are scheduled.

Due to COVID-19, the preserve is currently closed to visitation.

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
Aerial view of the coastline of Dangermond preserve with turquoise waves breaking on a rocky shore.
Closeup of a shrub with purple and blue sunset in the sky behind it.
Sunrise over a bay at Dangermond Preserve.
Trees and rolling hills along the shore.
An owl sits in the grass looking directly at the camera.

Who's on the Preserve?

Animals

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve’s rich confluence of salt and freshwater ecosystems are home to hundreds of species, many of them endangered. Mountain lion breed and raise cubs on the preserve, while California sea lions and northern elephant seals rest and raise pups along the beaches. Burying owls and acorn woodpeckers nest and forage for food in the preserve’s woods and grasslands, while Grant’s cormorants show off their shiny blue necks offshore along rocky intertidal areas that protect important marine life. 

TNC also maintains a small cattle herd on the preserve as a conservation tool to reduce fire fuel loads, manage invasive species, and promote endemic species. These herds continue the preserve’s ranching history, which began with the arrival of the Spanish in the 1770s.

A camera trap captures a curious looking bobcat.
Dangermond Preserve Bobcat on the Dangermond Preserve © John Stuelpnagel

Wildlife at the Dangermond Preserve

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

Plants

The preserve is a window into what once grew wild across California and how natural processes like fire governed ecosystems before European settlement. Pockets of grassland are speckled with native species like purple needle and rye grass. In springtime in years of good rain, these fields are painted orange, blue, yellow, purple and pink by abundant wildflowers. Chaparral scrubland cover 9,000 acres of the preserve, and fire and drought-resistant species like the California lilac, manzanita, California coffeeberry and the rare La Purissima manzanita thrive here. The plant life underwater is equally rich, home to underwater oases full of rockweed algae, bull kelp and sea stars.

Indigenous Culture

The preserve protects a confluence of historical and cultural resources across Native American, Spanish and U.S. histories. This part of the coastline is culturally and spiritually important to Chumash people, who once integrated the Preserve’s unique resources into many aspects of everyday life. For example, offshore reefs’ unique tar seeps, born from ancient oil deposits, served as caulking for canoes and baskets. 

TNC is working with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and other Chumash to be part of the re-discovery, protection, and celebration of the extraordinary cultural record at the Dangermond Preserve.

Technology

TNC scientists and partners are constantly working with technology to advance human understanding of the wildlife and the environment in the face of climate change. The Jack and Laura Dangermond preserve’s size and biodiversity marks it as a good candidate for new kinds of management, research and discovery. With wildlife cameras, GPS collars, acoustic sensors and much more, TNC seeks to expand the ways this landscape is maintained and explored. 

This vision has catalyzed the start of a new institute, The Point Conception Institute (PCI), a conservation enterprise based at the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. PCI harnesses the power of open science to tackle urgent global challenges related to climate change and biodiversity loss through diverse research collaborations, data stewardship and sharing, and innovative technological solutions. The institute is building a Digital Twin of the Dangermond Preserve—a working model of the 25,000-acre protected area, updated in near real-time by a vast network of sensors strategically positioned across land and water This digital rendering is built for distribution and will be available online, allowing researchers to study many aspects of the Preserve from anywhere in the world.

Two high school students look at a GPS on Dangermond Preserve in California.
Environmental Education Lompoc Highschool students experiment with GPS technology on a visit to the preserve. © TNC
Coastal Marine Ecologist Walter Heady collects samples from a tidepool on a rock at Dangermond Preserve as ocean waves crash.
Dangermond Preserve, CA TNC Coastal Marine Ecologist Walter Heady collects samples for a photographic biodiversity survey off Government Point during one of the lowest tides of the year. © Bill Marr/TNC
Environmental Education Lompoc Highschool students experiment with GPS technology on a visit to the preserve. © TNC
Dangermond Preserve, CA TNC Coastal Marine Ecologist Walter Heady collects samples for a photographic biodiversity survey off Government Point during one of the lowest tides of the year. © Bill Marr/TNC

Background

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

The Bixby family first arrived in California from Maine amid the Gold Rush of the 1850s. The family bought huge swaths of land in Los Angeles County and Orange County for ranching and farming. Then, in 1912, Fred Bixby purchased the 9,000-acre Cojo Ranch in Santa Barbara County, uniting it with the 16,000-acre Jalama Ranch 27 years later. Hollywood and Southern California’s urban and military development left the area largely untouched as the Bixby Ranch, which allowed nature and natural processes to continue relatively undisturbed. 

A Preserve Is Born

TNC and its partners understood what the Bixby Ranch’s expansive, well-preserved habitats could mean for conservation efforts in California. It was one of the last large, privately owned and still-undeveloped coastal tracts in Southern California—one of the country’s most expensive real estate markets. Jack and Laura Dangermond, the founders of the geographic software company Esri, were among those watching what happened to the property. They, like many, cherished the area. In December 2017, the Dangermonds made TNC’s acquisition of the Preserve possible with the largest philanthropic gift in TNC history. 

A Shared Vision Creates a First-of-Its-Kind Living Laboratory

TNC and Jack and Laura Dangermond share a vision to make the preserve a living laboratory that will draw researchers and students from nearby University of California, Santa Barbara and other universities. With the help of the Dangermonds, the preserve is becoming one of the world’s most studied preserves, outfitted with environmental sensors to better understand the impact of climate change on the region’s natural resources.

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

  • More than 200 wildlife species

    200

    More than 200 wildlife species

  • Nearly 600 plant species

    600

    Nearly 600 plant species

Dangermond Preserve

By investing in the Dangermond Preserve, you will not only promote land protection within California’s Central Coast; you will be promoting conservation innovation that begins locally and impacts globally. Please join us.