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Land Trust Buys Laurel Curve Property: 10 Acres on Highway 17 for Wildlife Crossing
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has purchased 10 acres on the east side of Highway 17 at Laurel Curve, the first step toward building a wildlife crossing there.
The Land Trust began acquisition efforts last spring when a developer fell out of contract to buy the property. Since then, the group has worked with Caltrans, the Santa Cruz Puma Project, the Regional Transportation Commission, and Pathways for Wildlife to develop plans for a safe passage for wildlife under Highway 17.
Land Trust Project Director Dan Medeiros says that mountain lions and other wildlife have routinely tried to cross the highway at Laurel Curve, making it a deadly stretch of highway for both wildlife and motorists.
“It comes down to two basic things: Is there a place for passage? And is there wildlife habitat on either side?” says Medeiros. “For this project, the answer is yes to both.”
The Land Trust plans to place an easement on the property, protecting its capacity to host a wildlife crossing under Highway 17 and then resell it. The group is also working to protect two larger properties on either side of the road. The presence of these two large, undeveloped properties is one of the reasons Laurel Curve is such a good place for a wildlife crossing.
UC Santa Cruz professor Chris Wilmers, who heads the Santa Cruz Puma Project says that a wildlife crossing at Laurel Curve is, “the best opportunity for maintaining puma connectivity across Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County.”
Though designs for the crossing are in the preliminary phases, Medeiros says the partners plan to model the project off of an existing culvert-style wildlife crossing near Lexington Reservoir in Santa Clara County.
The Land Trust purchased the property with a $614,000 loan from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and contributions from Land Trust members.
In 2011, the Land Trust completed its 25-year Conservation Blueprint for Santa Cruz County. The Blueprint called for the protection of 50,000 acres of land with multiple conservation benefits, including wildlife connectivity, water, recreation, and working lands, like farmland and sustainable timberland. The Land Trust has protected 10,000 acres through six transactions since then.
February 3, 2014