By Julie Hutcheson
The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency is on a roll when it comes to acquiring land in the foothills of Coyote Valley. The Agency has signed a purchase and sale agreement for 1,861 acres of Tilton Ranch. Along with the purchase of the 604 acre Baird Parcels of Tilton Ranch by the Agency last year, a total of 2,465 acres of the Ranch will now be permanently protected.
The good news doesn’t end here though. This week, the Agency is expected to close escrow on what is known as the Davidson parcels. These parcels totaling approximately 94 acres are adjacent to Tilton Ranch. Once the Agency closes escrow on the 1,861 acres of Tilton Ranch which is anticipated to be in June, a large swath of the foothills from the City of Morgan Hill’s northernwestern boundary up to and including the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve will be permanently protected. Other local, state, and non-profit partner organizations have pledged support and are anticipated to contribute millions toward the purchases.
One of Only Three in the World
In addition to conserving a significant viewshed in Coyote Valley, these parcels are dominated by serpentine and California annual grassland habitat, along with Coast Live Oak Forest and Mixed Oak Woodland. They provide critical habitat for 14 threatened or endangered species including the Bay Checkerspot butterfly and tricolored blackbird. Most notably, the Davidson and Baird Parcels together house one of the only three known occurrences in the world of the federally endangered Coyote Ceanothus plant.
The headwaters of Fisher Creek, which flow north through the Laguna Seca wetland at the northernmost end of Coyote Valley and drains into Coyote Creek, is located on Tilton Ranch. Groundwater recharge occurs in the property’s many stream channels and alluvial soils, supplying the Coyote Valley groundwater sub-basin. The cattle grazing currently taking place on the ranch is expected to continue with the aim of maintaining the sensitive serpentine habitat, ponds, and riparian areas, while also reducing the risk of wildfire in this sensitive wildland-urban interface.
The Remaining 70 Acres of Tilton Ranch
Still available for sale is approximately 60 acres that serve as the central complex of the ranch along with some hay fields. There is interest by another conservation organization in potentially acquiring this acreage. Meanwhile, another 10 acres will continue to serve as a family homestead.
A Legacy for All
The sale of Tilton Ranch to the Habitat Agency reflects the landowners’ desire to leave a legacy of conservation and ranching in the foothills of Coyote Valley where the family grazed cattle for five generations. As mentioned in a previous article, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Preserve was once part of the Tilton-Baird Ranch. This acquisition will essentially complete the conservation of what was historically the extent of the ranch.
We are heartened that the advocacy efforts of some of the Protect Coyote Valley partners played a significant part in ensuring the Habitat Plan was adopted leading to this and other critical conservation acquisitions in the Santa Clara Valley.