Land conservancy formed for Carrizo Plain

dsneed@thetribunenews.comJuly 17, 2014 

The southern entrance to the Carrizo Plain.

JOE JOHNSTON — The Tribune Buy Photo

A group of wildlife advocates have joined together to form a new land conservancy for the Carrizo Plain.

The Carrizo Plain Conservancy will focus on approximately 36,000 acres that are now permanently protected for conservation purposes around the two commercial-scale solar plants in California Valley, said Neil Havlik, president of the conservancy and retired natural resources manager for the city of San Luis Obispo.

“The Carrizo Plain Conservancy has been established to build upon the wave of habitat conservation associated with the advent of the solar facilities and to focus efforts on expanding and diversifying that conservation effort,” he said.

Tucked into the southeastern corner of San Luis Obispo County, the Carrizo Plain is one of the last vestiges of native Central Valley grassland in the state and is home to a variety of rare and endangered species including San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rats and pronghorn antelope.

Most of the plain, about 250,000 acres, comprises the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but areas north of the monument are the site of two new commercial photovoltaic plants, Topaz Solar Farm and California Valley Solar Ranch.

As part of the environmental mitigation for the plants, the solar companies were required to preserve lands surrounding the facilities.

The conservancy plans to seek grants to do wildlife habitat restoration work on these lands. It also plans to acquire land from willing sellers to increase the amount of conservation acreage.

Much of the land was once farmed and will need significant restoration in order to be suitable wildlife habitat. This will require close coordination with the main land management agencies in the area, including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as other conservation groups, said Stephnie Wald, conservancy secretary.

The IRS recently approved the conservancy’s status as a tax-exempt public charity. For more information, visit the group’s website at www.carrizoplainconservancy.org or by calling 801-3416.

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