SLC Places Climate Change Adaptation at the Fore, Promotes From Within

SLC Places Climate Change Adaptation at the Fore, Promotes From Within

Restoring grasslands and oak savannas across The Santa Lucia Preserve is a crucial component of the Conservancy’s wildfire and climate change resilience efforts. Photo by Bill Guion.

September 15, 2021

By Jamison Watts, Executive Director

The Santa Lucia Conservancy remains steadfast in its mission to protect and steward the unique natural and aesthetic resources of the Santa Lucia Preserve while promoting ecologically sustainable residential communities. In support of that mission, the organization has been conducting a comprehensive inventory over the last nine months to determine whether the right goals and strategies are in place to adapt to and mitigate the primary threats to the Preserve’s natural capital and community. Our effort has resulted in several significant findings and changes that I’m excited to share.

Foremost, we recognize that climate change is driving the most serious biological and climatic threats to the Preserve, including catastrophic wildfire, drought, emerging pathogens, and invasive species. Second, we understand that we must improve our partnership with the Preserve community to better support our shared vision of a place where both people and nature thrive. Lastly, we have found that we must evolve our operational systems in order to sustainably support our goals, strategies and programs going forward. 

In light of these findings, we have redefined our core functions to include land preservation (legal responsibilities associated with fee title ownership and conservation easements), ecological management, outreach and education, and business operations. Staffing and operations have been restructured to be consistent with these functions. 

Starting this month, Dr. Rodrigo Sierra Corona will lead the Conservancy’s restructured Ecological Management Department consisting of biological monitoring and research, grassland and forest restoration, and conservation grazing. Jenna Allred has been promoted from Natural Lands Manager to Senior Manager of Climate Change Adaptation, where she will be responsible for researching, developing and implementing climate change adaptation strategies across our programs and projects. Goal-setting and strategy development will be consistent with best practices pertaining to climate change adaptation and resilience and will focus on wildfire patterns, drought scenarios, ecosystem connectivity, and biodiversity. 

As part of our continuing commitment to partnership, the Conservancy has restructured its Stewardship Department to better serve The Preserve community and safeguard the protected values of 8,000 acres of conservation easements, or Openlands, that the Conservancy holds in trust.  With Stewardship Manager Andrew Nguyen and Stewardship Associate Izaac Tompkins joining the team, the department is designed to prioritize partnering with landowners to find win-win solutions for people and the land. We’ve also hired a full-time communications and outreach coordinator, Alix Soliman, to prioritize increased access to information and build community with landowners, Preserve members, and the public. 

Moving forward, the Conservancy will be working on four primary objectives: 

  1. Building climate and fire resilience 
  2. Building community by connecting people to nature and each other
  3. Restoring our native grasslands
  4. Working with partners to improve wildlife linkages across our region

You’ll be hearing more about these exciting objectives in the months ahead as we build on our 25 years of successful land stewardship and travel this uncharted path together.

Thank you for your ongoing support, 

Jamison Watts

Executive Director