Highland Ranch to get permanent protection



On Sept. 18, the SLO County Board of Supervisors threw its support behind a conservation easement that would preserve 240 acres of scenic farmland south of Los Osos Valley Road, roughly two miles outside of SLO city limits.

The nonprofit Land Conservancy of SLO County wanted to buy the easement using a $525,000 grant from the California Farmland Conservancy Program, a first for SLO, but needed approval from the county to ensure the easement wouldn’t conflict with the General Plan and the land would continue to be used for agricultural purposes. The board unanimously approved the resolution.

“We are on the verge of a very extraordinary result,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said. “This is some of the most extraordinary, rich farmland we have in this county.”

A recent lot line adjustment combined several parcels on the Highland Ranch site to create three parcels where there once were seven. The approved easement would restrict development on the agricultural parcels to improvements on the existing ranch headquarters and would prevent any future subdivisions. A separate easement on the mountainous land will be bought in part with money from the National Guard’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Plan in order to keep development from encroaching on Camp San Luis. In all, 531 acres will be preserved.

The land will remain under the ownership of the Warden Family Trust, but they’ll be paid at least $1 million to keep the land as is—a protection that will carry over should they sell the land.

“This ranch has been in my family for over a hundred years,” Don Warden said. “There is an attachment to that land. We’d like to see it protected for the future.”

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