The Wildlands Conservancy, a California-based nonprofit organization, has wrapped up the largest purchase of private land for conservation purposes in the country’s history.
In March, the Conservancy completed a four-year
effort to buy over 600,000 acres in the Southern California desert
and turn the land over to the federal government. The land was
owned by the Catellus Corporation, a company that manages the
former property of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific
David Myers, executive director of the
Conservancy, feared the sections would fall victim to "typical
desert dingbat land use — when these lands are sold to
hundreds of individuals and those individuals subdivide the land to
hundreds of more people."
The deal is good news for
endangered species, such as the desert tortoise. "Managing pieces
of habitat is certainly not as efficient as managing landscapes of
habitat," says Jan Bedrosian, spokeswoman for the California office
of the Bureau of Land Management.
The Conservancy raised
$45 million from foundations and individuals; the remainder of the
$63 million cost came from the federal Land and Water Conservation
Fund (HCN, 9/28/98: Congress avoids buying public lands). Catellus
gave a $20 million discount on the property, offering some land for
as little as $80 an acre.