California is the most ecologically diverse state in the nation. With ten landscape provinces stretching over 750 miles across the latitudes, 30% of California's plant species are endemic. For this reason, and since it is the most populated state in the nation, the California Floristic Province is one of the world's 25 hot spots where biological diversity is seriously at risk.
The Department will seek properties that, when combined with other public lands already in the ownership of appropriate land management agencies or organizations, will ensure long-range ecological goals. Such goals might include the perpetuation of a sustainable ecosystem, ownership of most or all of an entire watershed and/or the protection of important biological linkages. Typically, the Department will coordinate its acquisition efforts in this category with those of other public, private and nonprofit organizations. In this manner, a greater land protection objective may be achieved than might be accomplished by any one entity acting on its own.
Examples include the Coal Canyon project (which connects Chino Hills State Park with the Cleveland National Forest) and the Lucky 5 Ranch (which connects Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Project Selection Characteristics:
In seeking potential project lands to be nominated for acquisition, the following characteristics should be considered.
1. Landscape/Habitat Linkages: The Department is seeking properties that link to, or contribute to linking, existing units of the State Park System with other large blocks of protected habitat. Linkages must serve to connect existing protected areas, facilitate wildlife movement/botanical transfer, and result in sustainable combined acreage.
2. Watershed Protection: Properties that contribute to long-term protection of significant watersheds, portions of which are within or adjacent to the State Park System. Acquisition of significant watersheds should be tied to biological and physical values of the watershed, to the degree to which watershed values on non-State Park System lands are protected, and to those watersheds that have good possibility of total or near total protection in the future. Significant watersheds should be determined in part based on (1) intact ecosystems/landscapes with the presence of high value riverine, riparian, wetland habitats, (2) good to moderate water quality, (3) representation of state's ecological regions, and (4) habitats and threatened and endangered species representative of the ecological regions. Opportunities for recreation add to a property's value.
3. Under-Protected Ecological Regions: The Department is seeking properties in three notably under-protected ecological regions of California and where State Park System lands are relatively scarce. These regions are (1) Sacramento Valley, (2) San Joaquin Valley, and (3) the Delta area. It is preferable that properties support under-protected major habitat types (see 4, below) or values described in Unique Natural Resource Areas category.
4. Under-Protected Habitat Types in California: The Department is seeking properties that support relatively large areas of under-protected major habitat types in California (not just the State Park System). Focus should be on the habitat types below, which according to a GAP analysis, are less than twenty percent (20%) preserved on publicly protected lands.
Diablan Sage Scrub
Blue Oak Woodland
Valley Sink Scrub
Valley Oak Woodland
Coastal Prairie California
Great Valley Cottonwood Riparian Forest
Juniper-Oak Cismontane Woodland
Great Valley Oak Riparian Forest
Northern Interior Cypress Forest
Great Valley Mesquite Scrub
5. Buffers to Existing State Park System Wildlands: The Department is seeking meaningful buffer properties whose primary purpose is to reduce present/future impacts to existing high value State Park System natural resource lands from urbanization or other deleterious land use.
Project Ranking Criteria:
1. Highest priority will be given to properties that link, or contribute to linking, State Park System wildlands with other protected areas. Functionality, total reserve size, significance of overall reserve area will be assessed. Size and significance should be tied, in part, to identified focal species, whose relative significance will be assessed.
2. Highest priority will be given to properties that serve to (1) protect significant natural resource values within under-protected ecological regions of California or (2) protect relatively large, sustainable acreage of under-protected major habitat types.
3. High priority will be given to properties that receive priority protection from NCCP, MSHCP, or other regional conservation planning efforts. Property should tie directly to a State Park System objective, including one or more of the above characteristics, regional recreational opportunities, or significant cultural resource preservation.
4. High priority will be given to properties with respect to condition of property, especially functioning natural systems, sustainability, and parcel line configuration in relationship to susceptibility to offsite impacts.
5. Other factors that will be considered include how well does the property contribute to other aspects of the State Park System Plan, including new urban areas, recreation, trail connections, new interpretive themes, cultural resources.
6. As in all other acquisition categories, threat and cost will be evaluated.