Oak woodlands are an integral and invaluable part of San Luis Obispo County’s natural landscape. This summer, conversations in our local community and media outlets have been dominated by Justin Vineyard and Winery’s removal of oak woodlands on their Sleepy Farm Road property in the Adelaida area.
The loss of oak woodland in such a profound and sudden way is both devastating and frustrating. These trees are irreplaceable within our lifetime. Yet we at The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County are inspired and encouraged by the response from our community. It is clear that people care deeply about the flora and fauna that live here, that locals are passionate about protecting the water resources that are the lifeblood for our family farms and ranches, and that people understand the critical link between the vitality of our natural world and our economic well-being.
We feel it is important for the public to know The Land Conservancy is proactively working to protect almost 40,000 acres of oak woodlands and rangeland in the Adelaida area and on the North Coast. We have the opportunity now to permanently protect these landscapes, and we are not just protecting the trees. The voluntary agreements we enter into with willing landowners permanently prohibit or limit activities such as industrial water extraction, land conversion, residential and commercial development, and the destruction of wildlife habitat. These protections go further than a single ordinance, and willing landowners are fairly compensated for managing their land in a sustainable and thoughtful way.
The Wonderful Company has approached us as a possible recipient of the Sleepy Farm Road property once they have stabilized the site. Our organization has a rigorous process for deciding whether to accept land, and our board has not yet decided to move forward. We are listening to the voices of our community and will thoughtfully consider whether accepting the property would be in line with our mission and our efforts in North County.
From Big Sur to Cerro Alto, Adelaida is a critical link in a major wildlife migration corridor of national importance. It is also the foundation of a robust ranching and winemaking region that has boosted our local economy. It is possible to balance successful stewardship of the natural world with viable farming and ranching. The landowners we work with are proof of that.
Our region is growing. Newcomers and longtime residents alike cherish this place where we live, work, and play. The destruction of oaks in North County demonstrated how vulnerable our county is to significant change. It is time to act, and The Land Conservancy’s community of landowners, volunteers, and partner organizations is ready with a collaborative path forward to protect our home for future generations.
Donations and vocal support are essential for The Land Conservancy to accelerate the pace of conservation in our community.
We respectfully ask all concerned citizens to invest their energy, enthusiasm, and financial support into positive and proactive solutions that will shape the future of our county. This is a future where everyone—including the oaks, the eagles, the ranchers, the vintners, and our children—is able to thrive.
Kaila Dettman is the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo’s executive director. Send comments to through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a letter to the editor at email@example.com.