JMLT 30 Years Ahead | A Brief History of the Future

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30 YEARS AHEAD A Brief History Of The Future





Protecting the places that make the East Bay special


“Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir






Overview John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) was founded in 1989. Since then, you and other generous supporters have conserved 3,100 glorious acres of land in the East Bay. And, we’re just getting started. We hope you enjoy reading this reflection on how we got here and where we’re going—together.

Some key takeaways: V Foresighted people shaped the abundantly natural landscape where we live today V We owe them our debt, and we share their obligation to future generations V The story of conservation in the East Bay is remarkable and uplifting V The lands protected by JMLT are an inspiring window into that past V The challenges of waves of population growth in the past century were huge V Population pressure will be even more intense in the next few decades V We need to complete the vision and protect remaining vulnerable lands V It is an endgame; the next few decades will shape the East Bay forever V We need to protect the remaining large parcels of essential wild lands V We need to create suburban parks that provide nature just minutes away V We need to ensure that urban neighborhoods have great places for getting outside V The work ahead won’t be without challenges, but we can do it V Our success so far shows just how rewarding this will be

It’s up to us. 1

Our Actions. Their Future. Thanks to you, our diverse and generous community of supporters, this year John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) is celebrating our 30th anniversary as an organization. Because we care deeply about having a lasting impact, we’re marking this occasion by examining our role in the history of conservation in the East Bay and by looking 30 years ahead. How did we arrive at this point? What will happen in the next three decades? Together, how can we bring about a better future? John Muir Land Trust serves the human and non-human residents of the East Bay counties of Alameda and Contra Costa by conserving land that supports the health and well-being of all. The next three decades will be among be the most dynamic we’ve ever seen. The Bay Area is a special place. It welcomes a diverse and rapidly expanding population. It is driven by a booming economy. And, it offers breathtaking natural beauty at our doorsteps.

They had us in mind when they set aside these remarkable places for our benefit.

Forecasts call for the population in our two East Bay counties to increase by nearly 800,000 people over the next thirty years. That’s about the size of one San Francisco or three Marin counties—just the increase. This portends profound changes in the landscape as pressure mounts for more housing, more commercial services, more places of employment, and an expanding transportation footprint. If competition for land is intense now—imagine three decades of progressively increasing intensity. One implication is clear: land conservation is entering an endgame. What we achieve over the next thirty years will fix the natural landscape of the East Bay for decades after that … in practical terms, forever. At some point we will essentially run out of land. The good news is that we can determine what that future will be. We can shape what future residents of the East Bay will experience. That is a tremendous opportunity and a huge responsibility.

One hundred years ago, East Bay residents took that responsibility very seriously. They thought about us. It’s easy to take for granted the natural paradise around us: the wild places that ring our cities and suburbs, the trails that intersect our neighborhoods, the untouched hills, the pristine watersheds, and our delightful neighborhood and regional parks. Far-sighted people made this possible. These were ordinary people, yet at the same time, visionaries who understood the need to experience nature nearby. They had us in mind when they set aside these remarkable places for our benefit. Ninety years ago, these foresighted people said let’s take the surplus land created by the consolidation of the water companies, hire the firm founded by Frederick Law Olmsted, the most brilliant park architect of his (or any other) day, and fulfill the vision the great man himself had imagined decades before. That idea became the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), the largest urban regional park system in the country. Ninety years ago, visionaries said let’s petition 2

for a state park that will protect our singular mountain and its surrounding lands. Let’s preserve the sweeping views from its summit surpassed by few places on earth. Mount Diablo will remain untouched forever. Over one hundred years ago, one local resident, our namesake, sat at his “Scribble Den” desk and wrote the words that inspired the creation of our breathtaking national park system. His words set in motion the conservation movement in which we are all beneficiaries and participants. And just thirty years ago, a handful of neighbors sat around a kitchen table and launched John Muir Land Trust. They set our organization on a path to expand what others had started—to do our part to help achieve a grand vision for a place where people and wildlife, where thoughtful development and protected nature could exist side-by-side. We owe these visionaries our gratitude and we owe them a great debt. We are doubly blessed: they did this for us, and we in turn, can do the same for generations yet to come. We live at a time when the social, legal, and technological resources exist for individuals—that’s you and me—to make a difference. We can make a lasting difference in how future residents will live their lives. Farms and ranches owned by families for decades are coming on the market. These critical missing pieces make conserved landscapes whole if protected, and irreparably scar them if developed. Smart development in the right places benefits us all. But, wild places such as Carr Ranch and Almond Ranch should endure as natural refuge. Not every farm and not every ranch will be saved. But, we can accomplish much. JMLT’s track record shows that. And what we do today could be impossible for our grandchildren decades hence. The grand vision imagined a century ago is not complete. The endgame is in sight. Our generation defines the landscape that future generations—future us’s, future we’s, future you and me’s—will inherit. Each new property is an opportunity to fill in a missing piece. Arm-in-arm with each other, inspired by those who shaped where we live today, we can make this grand vision a reality for all who come hereafter.

Let’s get to work.






“So extraordinary is Nature with her choicest treasures, spending plant beauty as she spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land and sea, garden and desert.” — John Muir

A Brief History That Points To Our Future We enjoy the natural beauty of the East Bay today due to past actions taken to make it so. During the preceding decades, intense waves of population growth were met by equally forceful waves of conservation. Now, it’s our turn to guide a landscape as it takes its final shape. Ours is one of the country’s most populated metropolitan areas. Our economy is ranked in the top twenty globally, yet, our home is a place of remarkable natural beauty. How did it remain so? Answering that question reveals that we owe a profound debt to the foresighted people who came before.

What we achieve over the next few decades will fix the natural landscape of the East Bay for decades after that … in practical terms, forever.

The East Bay is indeed blessed. The unspoiled slopes of Mount Diablo are a wonder in the mists of early morning light. Becoming “lost” in the wilderness of Briones or hearing the screech of a hawk soaring high over a valley in Las Trampas are sights and sounds made all the more remarkable by the knowledge that you are in a metropolis. Climbing the oak-studded path to the summit of Mount Wanda is a delight, knowing that you are walking in the literal footsteps of John Muir himself. The East Bay offers hundreds of these experiences. How did it get to be like this? People were drawn to the beauty of this place, and conservation helped to keep it this way. What sets the East Bay apart from other regions of the Bay Area is the large expanse of conserved land in the midst of heavily populated areas. This map makes that clear. The gray areas show urban development over the past century, and the areas of color show decades of conservation. The East Bay Hills form a natural “green spine” running through our urban and suburban centers.

Looking forward ten years, two-thirds of the total Bay Area’s population growth will occur in two places: the East Bay and in Santa Clara County. The populated parts of the South Bay are already uniformly gray, and will grow more so. In contrast, the East Bay HiIls bisect our population centers, offering natural relief and respite—delightful rolling hillsides, clear streams and lakes, and intact acres of wilderness. Our homes are just minutes from hiking trails and pathways that get you lost in nature.

1989 4





Conservation Histories of California Open Space Acquisition and Urban Development in the Bay Area

Open space by acquisition date unknown not dated 1850-1859 1860-1869 1870-1879 1880-1889 1890-1899 1900-1909

Urban development 1900

1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1989 1990-1999

1940 1954 1962 1974 1990

2000-2009 2010-2019

Source: Santos, M.J., A. Peers, A. Avery, E. Francis, E. Steiner and J. Coolidge. 2014. Conservation histories of California: The San Francisco Bay Area. Spatial History Project, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), Stanford University. 5

How did it get to be like this?

Pacheco Marsh In 2001, JMLT purchased 247-acre Pacheco Marsh near Martinez in a partnership with the Contra Costa Flood Control and Water Conservation District and EBRPD. The property

A century ago and at critical times afterward, forward-thinking people decided to act on behalf of the future (that’s us). Protected landscapes do not simply “happen.” They are the result of tireless planning, lobbying, community-building, advocacy, fundraising, and stewardship. These visionaries foresaw growth, but also imagined a future when residents of the East Bay would enjoy the full benefits of nature next door. They began a series of conservation acquisitions that matched a simultaneous series of infrastructure investments followed by bursts of population growth. This growth shows no signs of slowing. Just since the turn of this century, the year 2000, the East Bay has added about 400,000 people—a number equivalent to the total population in 1930. Our protected landscapes are a window to past times, and through them we see how human activity has shaped where we live. That impact is most dramatically seen along our coastlines. More than ninety-five percent of the original saltwater tidal wetlands in the San Francisco Bay have been lost to development. Salt marshes play a vital role in the aquatic ecosystem, and are essential to healthy coastal waters.

bears scars from decades of commercial activity along Suisun Bay. We’re actively restoring it. A sustainable creek will nurture pristine habitat for native plants and animals while providing flood protection. Here children will learn about this important ecosystem.



The original East Bay residents, the Ohlone Tribal Nation, situated their villages near the mouths of creeks in these wetlands due to abundant shellfish and other food sources. Archaeological studies of Ohlone sites throughout the area have uncovered shellfish bone, glass scrapers, and buried clay objects. The Ohlone people occupied the Bay Area for centuries, until the period between 1784 and 1846, when the Spanish and later Mexican governments encouraged settlement of California by giving large land grants to prominent men for raising cattle and sheep. Much land preserved by JMLT in northern Contra Costa was originally part of Rancho El Pinole, granted in 1842 to Ygnacio Martinez.




Ohlone Tribal Nation


The original East Bay residents, the Ohlone Indians, situated their villages near the mouths of creeks in the wetlands due to abundant shellfish and other food sources.

Rancho El Pinole 1842

The modern population boom in the East Bay began with the Gold Rush of 1849, and has advanced in periodic bursts, all facilitated by innovations in transportation. A decade and a half after the Town of Oakland was incorporated in 1852, the Central Pacific had become a major employer, operating one of the country’s largest rail yards in West Oakland. Today’s Port of Oakland served then as the terminus for the Transcontinental Railroad. Over the hills in the valley to the east, after persistent lobbying for rail service by local citizens the San easier transportation of heavier goods shifted agriculture to walnuts

Fernandez Ranch

and fruits.

JMLT acquired the first parcel for Fernandez

Ramon Branch Line opened in 1891. Business boomed in the valley as

Ranch in 2005, followed a few years later by the adjacent property known as Franklin Canyon. These pristine 1,185 acres today are a perfect place to contemplate the early history of the East Bay. Ohlone Indians likely lived here before the land was acquired by Gold Rush pioneer and cattle rancher Bernardo Fernandez when he purchased a 9,000-acre swath of Rancho Pinole. Secluded trails in these

A few miles to the north, taking advantage of railroad access to get

gentle hills and quiet valleys allow visitors to

his produce to market was naturalist and author John Muir. When

imagine time frozen in place—when the entire

Muir married Louisa Strentzel in 1880 he became ranch manager

region held few human inhabitants, and wind

of his father-in-law’s 2,300-acre orchard of over 1,000 varieties

and wild creatures made the only sounds.

of fruits and ornamentals. Muir’s environmental activism helped to preserve Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and other wilderness areas. From the desk in his “Scribble Den” in Martinez, Muir wrote letters, essays, and books that became foundations of the modern conservation movement.



John Muir in Martinez 1880


John Muir House 1891


1890 San Ramon Branch Line 1891 7

In the second half of the nineteenth century, cities such as Martinez (1867), Alameda (1872), and Berkeley (1878) sprang up along the shore, overlooked by ranches in the hills above. The population of the East Bay rose dramatically in the weeks after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake when some 200,000 refugees poured across the Bay. Few moved back. By 1915 the population of Oakland

Mount Wanda, West Hills Farm The 325-acre property known as Mount Wanda was once owned by John Muir, but not included when the U.S. National Park Service established the John Muir National Historic Site in 1964. When plans to buy the land from a

reached 150,000 and its City Hall was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The earliest efforts to conserve land took place when independent water companies formed to meet the demands of these growing cities and of the farms in the flatlands. Engineer Anthony Chabot pioneered earth-fill dam construction with the building of Temescal Dam (1869) and Chabot Dam (1876). Then-dominant East Bay Water Company followed with San Pablo Dam (1919), Upper San Leandro Dam (1926), and Lafayette Dam (1928).

local rancher floundered in 1991, JMLT pledged

These established vitally important protected

the funds needed. Today, you can take a “fine

watershed areas. An increased water supply

fragrant walk” along the very paths where

propelled more population growth.

Muir strolled his property’s oak-studded hills dotted with native wildflowers. Named for one

The stage was set for the pivotal moment in

of Muir’s daughters, Mount Wanda provides

local land conservation history when in 1921

sweeping views of Mount Diablo, Carquinez

concerns about financial stability and drought

Strait and Briones Park. On June 25, 2018, Congress approved a new expansion:

led the California State Legislature to adopt


the Municipal Utility Act. In 1923, residents

Hills Farm, a 44-acre historic fruit farm JMLT

in nine cities voted to create the East Bay

purchased and will soon donate to the Park

Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). A year


later, voters approved $39 million dollars in bonding capacity for a dam and aqueduct




1906 SF Earthquake sends people to the East Bay


Mt. Diablo State Park 1921


1920 East Bay Municipal Utility District 1923

to transport water from melting Sierra snow fields, followed by $26 million dollars in 1927 to acquire East Bay Water Company along with its 40,000 acres of land and five dams in the East Bay Hills. Today, EBMUD supplies some of the highest quality drinking water in the country thanks to these farsighted efforts a century ago. The acquisition of East Bay Water Company in 1927 was indeed the key moment in East Bay conservation, as the newly-formed EBMUD declared that 10,000 acres in the Oakland and Berkeley Hills were surplus to its needs. Park advocates commissioned the Olmsted/ Hall feasibility study in 1930. Arguing for more parks, it put forth a detailed plan for a 10,000-acre “Grand Park.” Because this new park would serve nine cities and two counties, a new type of regional agency was needed. In 1934 voters overwhelmingly approved (71%) the formation of the East Bay Regional Park District. EBRPD is now the largest urban regional park district in the United States.

Carr Ranch Protecting water quality by conserving land continues today. In 2016, JMLT and EBMUD partnered to protect 604-acre Carr Ranch south of Moraga. This crucial missing piece to the Upper San Leandro Watershed feeds a reservoir that supplies drinking water to tens of thousands of families. Development would have caused irreparable harm. Carr Ranch checks all boxes on the conservation wish list:

During the depths of the Great Depression purchasing all of the

pristine acres of land and creeks, expansion

Grand Park’s 10,000 acres at once was not possible. The Water

of wildlife habitat, historic ranch land, and

District’s asking price was $3 million dollars, and the fledgling Park

new places for passive outdoor recreation.

District’s annual budget was only $194,000. A three-member panel

Thousands of local families donated funds to make this acquisition possible.



East Bay Regional Park District 1934

1930 Hwy. 24 Opens 1934


1940 Bay Bridge Opens 1936 9

of real estate experts helped establish the value and phasing of the first acquisition. On June 4, 1936 the park board agreed to purchase 2,162 acres from EBMUD at a cost of $656,000, for what would become the first three parks at Upper Wildcat Canyon (Tilden), Temescal, and Roundtop (Sibley). The board took steps to qualify for $1 million in federal funding. Today the lands owned and managed by EBRPD offer endless opportunities for hiking, swimming, boating and camping in 73 parks throughout the region.

Almond Ranch JMLT and EBRPD work closely together to identify and protect the land most important for conservation in the East Bay. A prime example is Almond Ranch. For decades, conservationists have eyed these privately-owned 281 acres atop the Franklin Ridge south of Martinez. Trails end at locked gates here, as this keystone property is the only way to connect

With a first-rate water system in place, investments in large-scale

some 18,000 acres of protected land and keep

transportation drove population to new heights in the 1930s and

intact a vital wildlife corridor. With the proper-

1940s. Fortunately, a new wave of conservation followed. The San

ty finally under contract, in April, 2018 JMLT

Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the largest and most expensive of its

announced the $4 million Campaign To Save

time, opened on November 12, 1936, six months before the Golden

Almond Ranch. EBRPD has pledged $1 million

Gate Bridge. It carried automobiles on its upper deck, and trucks and

toward $4 million needed by December 2019.

commuter trains on the lower. When two bores of the Caldecott Tunnel opened in December, 1937 motorists could travel east along newly designated Route 24 toward one of Contra Costa’s most pronounced landmarks, Mount Diablo. After initial legislation in 1921, the state of California acquired just enough land in 1931 to create a small state park at the peak. Virtually the entire mountain is protected today.



Bay Bridge


Automobiles traveled on its upper deck, and trucks and commuter trains on the lower.


1930 Tilden Park 1936

1940 Caldecott Tunnel Opens 1937

World War II created “The Second Gold Rush” in the 1940s. The influx of workers to the East Bay’s shipyards combined with troops embarking from its ports turned Oakland and Richmond into boom towns. Population spilled into adjacent areas. Just over the eastern hills at the start of the decade, Walnut Creek was a farm town of 1,578, and Orinda a small community of 1,373 residents. Their populations quadrupled in a matter of years. The booming wartime and post-war economy filled military bases and factories with people who then decided to settle here. Investments in freeways ensured escalating growth at mid-century. After the Bureau of Public Roads approved urban routes of the Interstate Highway System in 1955, the first section of I-680, the eastern part of a loop around San Francisco Bay, was built between North Main Street in Walnut Creek and Monument Boulevard in Pleasant Hill. Spanning Carquinez Strait, the Benicia– Martinez Bridge opened in 1962 to replace the last automotive ferry service in the Bay Area. Its toll was $0.25 per car.


World War II The booming wartime and post-war economy filled military bases and factories.

To enjoy spectacular views of Mount Diablo and scan the entire county from south to north, few places are more accessible than the summit of Acalanes Ridge. Patterns of development are revealed by the freeways and commuter rail lines. Mount Diablo at sunrise is breathtaking. A decade ago, due to quirks in geography and scarcity of funding, this property along the border of Walnut Creek and Lafayette

The Bay Area Rapid Transit District began construction of a commuter rail system in 1964. Its engineers drilled underneath cities along the eastern shore, built complex aerial structures, tunneled through the Berkeley hills, and lowered the Transbay Tube into a trench along the floor of the Bay. The greater impact of BART on population growth in the East Bay was destined when the counties of San Mateo and Marin withdrew from the District in 1962. Not widely known is that residents of Marin County had originally


Acalanes Ridge

lacked a clear champion and was slated for development. Neighbors rallied, and JMLT brought all parties together in a unified effort to permanently protect the ridge in 2010.



I-680 Designated 1955

1960 BeniciaMartinez Bridge 1962 11

voted in favor of BART participation at 88%. The impacts of those withdrawals and other measures are clearly evident today. At 56%, Marin has double the percentage of land protected compared to the counties of Contra Costa (26%) and Alameda (22%), while Marin’s population is under a quarter the size of either East Bay county. Today BART continues its push eastward with extensions in northern Contra Costa and in Alameda County toward Livermore.

Mitigation Lands When new construction projects impact sensi-

Another stage for conservation was thus set, and this time it filled with an assortment of new actors. The early 1970s marked the beginnings of an environmental movement that sought to redress the downsides of an unchecked postwar economy. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 was followed by landmark national legislation that tackled the

tive natural resources or historic sites, developers are required to “mitigate” these impacts by protecting other lands of equivalent value. JMLT is partnering with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and EBMUD to take ownership of certain mitigation properties to ensure their longterm health and protection.

country’s dire pollution problems. Newly formed regional and local nonprofit land conservation organizations sprung up and raced to get ahead of the bulldozers fueled by economic growth. Increases in population are inevitable and welcome, and there are enormous benefits to economic growth. That said, it is critically important that growth be managed sustainably. Certain locations are well-suited for the placement of new homes and shopping centers. Other places are not, especially places that provide uniquely vital natural and ecosystem benefits. Imbalance between the two forces produces sprawl and cold landscapes of steel, concrete, and asphalt. A healthy balance produces a landscape such as the East Bay.




The First Earth Day 1970

1970 Land Trusts Form 1970’s


1980 BART Opens 1972

Since the 1970s and 1980s, conservation has been skillfully applied by local land trusts and their supporters. A land trust works in a discrete region to acquire and protect the lands that are essential for the well-being of human and non-human residents alike. This work is made possible by the support of caring members of the community who cherish the local lands we share and love. It is a large group. The Land Trust Alliance represents more than 1,000 member land trusts supported by more than five million members nationwide. In the Bay Area, these organizations include the Regional Park Foundation (1969), Save Mount Diablo (1971), Sonoma Land Trust (1976), Peninsula Open Space Trust (1977), and Marin Agricultural Land Trust (1980). To protect the East Bay, John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) was originally incorporated as The Martinez Regional Land Trust in 1989.

Franklin Ridge If this campaign succeeds, Almond Ranch will be the seventh property protected by JMLT on

JMLT was founded around a kitchen table in Martinez when a group of local residents—ordinary people like you and me—assembled to protect a place they dearly loved. They succeeded. Those delightful

Franklin Ridge, and it will create a 1,380-acre

150 acres of Alhambra Valley open space, now named Stonehurst, share a border with Almond Ranch, an adjacent property of 281 acres of wild land that is JMLT’s next targeted acquisition by December 31, 2019.

wildlife corridor for the species that thrive here.

integrated landscape that offers breathtaking recreation for human visitors and an unbroken Each acquisition along the ridge—Stonehurst (1991), Mount Wanda (1992), Sky Ranch (1998), Gustin Ranch (2002), Dutra Ranch (2004),

This year, John Muir Land Trust is celebrating thirty years of protecting and caring for open space, ranches, farms, parkland and shoreline in the East Bay. With 3,100 acres now under stewardship, many beautiful places are permanently preserved for residents of the counties of Alameda and Contra Costa for recreation, wildlife and scenic views.

and West Hills Farm (2015)—has its own story of neighbors working tirelessly to find the funds needed to protect it.

So many aspects of the conservation history of the East Bay are not covered in this short essay. For instance, consider the importance of Federal and California state funding. The state’s Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) was created in 1947 to fund projects that protect natural resources for wildlife and for public enjoyment. JMLT has






John Muir Land Trust formed 1989





Stonehurst 1989





Mt. Wanda 1991





Community Gardens 1997 13

received WCB grants for land acquisition along the Franklin Ridge. The state’s Resources Agency made a nearly $2 million grant to restore Rodeo Creek at Fernandez Ranch. The California State Coastal Conservancy, established in 1976, has been a critically important partner of land trusts throughout the region. State conservation ballot measures have become a critical funding tool, and JMLT provides communications and financial support. On the June 5, 2018 ballot, voters passed Proposition 68 to create $4 billion in green infrastructure spending for parks, environmental protection, and watershed protection. The public’s growing understanding that a dollar spent on conservation yields many dollars in ecosystem economic benefits is a major reason why a majority of these measures pass.

This brings us back to our original question: How did it get to be like this? The answer: necessary and inevitable waves of development have been met by far-sighted conservationists—by people who cared about the future and took action. A bold idea to create a world-class park system rather than commercially develop surplus land is today the East Bay Regional Park District, a system of parklands and trails that comprises 121,397 beautiful acres in 73 parks, with over 1,250 miles of trails. Protecting land for clean water means that EBMUD owns and manages 29,000 wild acres adjacent to populated neighborhoods in the East Bay. Every tool in the land conservation arsenal was put to use to grow a small state park into 90,000 acres of protected land in 50 individual preserves on and around Mount Diablo. A group formed around a kitchen table has grown into a leading force for conservation in Northern California, and after three decades of success, continues to fill in the vital missing pieces in Alameda and Contra Costa.

What happens next?




S K Y R A N C H Sky Ranch








Pacheco Marsh 2001





Gustin Ranch 2002






Goldfields 2002

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness”








Bodfish Preserve 2003






Dutra Ranch 2004




Fernandez Ranch 2005

— John Muir





Acalanes Ridge 2010 15

Thirty Years Ahead: The Work to be Done Conserving the most important places in the East Bay is far from complete. The next thirty years could well be the most important phase in this remarkable citizen-led effort that began decades ago. Much conservation took place in the middle of the last century, when large portions of the East Bay Hills and Mount Diablo were protected. Due to escalating prices and the competing need for new homes and places of commerce, ongoing efforts to protect land are expensive and time-consuming, but are arguably even more important today. New conservation acquisitions will preserve the integrity of the entire landscape. What can we say with confidence about the next thirty years? Population will grow at unprecedented rates. The next population burst will be the biggest yet. By 2049, the population of the counties of Alameda and Contra Costa is forecast to exceed 3.6 million people, an increase of nearly 800,000 people. You thought things were crowded now. Land will be under increasing threat of development. A landmark study projects that nearly 300,000 acres of Bay Area land are at risk of sprawl development in the near future. The East Bay is most threatened. Contra Costa alone has 1 of every 5 acres of threatened land, and 41% of the area’s at-risk critical habitat lands. Over half of Marin County is already protected, but that is true of only about one-quarter of the East Bay. That disparity could increase. Opportunities lost will be lost forever. Landscapes that appear protected now are actually interlaced with at-risk private landholdings. Families who have resisted the temptation to sell to developers will reconsider, as growth drives up real estate values. Incursions into


the integrity of protected landscapes will create fragmented habitat and threaten wildlife. Pristine watersheds could be compromised. When the dust settles (literally) three decades from now, the East Bay landscape will be essentially defined for good. Opportunities will be either won or lost forever. Public funding will be tight, but available. Federal, state, and local government spending on land conservation faces competing priorities. A bright spot is the willingness of voters to pass ballot measures that provide funds for clean water, parks, and habitat. Public spending to address climate change will increase; it will help to prevent wildfires, secure water supplies, and meet threats from sea-level rise. Land conservation solutions will attract funds. The value of ecosystem benefits will be more widely understood. Policy-makers are learning that investment in green infrastructure pays big dividends. A dollar invested in land conservation returns many multiples in the economic value of natural goods and services such as clean air and water, healthy food, habitat, genetic diversity, recreation, and enhanced quality of life. The value of the East Bay’s regional park system is well over half a billion dollars annually. Research points to the close relationship between the natural world and human well-being. Creative play outdoors produces healthy and happy children. The actions of individuals and the nonprofit sector will be critical. What happens next is up to us. In the East Bay, individuals with a common purpose have successfully preserved a place of extraordinary beauty. The seeds of the nonprofit land conservation sector were planted in the 1970s and 1980s. These have grown into mature organizations with wide networks of supporters who are taking on the challenge ahead. That’s us! It can be done. Every year JMLT celebrates another victory. Another wonderful place preserved. Another trail segment completed. Another habitat secured for fragile wildlife with whom we share this remarkable landscape. Yes, land is more expensive and population increases are staggering. But, the people who shaped the East Bay accomplished remarkable things. And, so will we. Decades of work have honed the tools, methodologies, and expertise we need to complete the vision. 17

“Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”— John Muir







Looking Ahead: Work To Be Done. What land should we save? There is no shortage of opportunity. Priority land conservation projects fall into three important categories.


Large parcels of desirable wild lands. V Examples: Carr Ranch, Almond Ranch. V 100 acres or more. V Often adjacent to or inholdings within preserved wilderness areas and protected watersheds. V Sought for high-end homes and/or commercial development. V Huge conservation value due to habitat, species protection, water security, wilderness integrity, and recreation. V Acquisition is well-suited for a land trust due to location, complexity, landowner sentiment, or availability of



There are as many as 150 candidate large parcel properties in Western Contra Costa.1

Neighborhood parks. V Examples: Painted Rock, Stonehurst, Batwing. V 100 acres or fewer. V Adjacent to populated neighborhoods where opportunities for outdoor recreation are in high demand. V May fill out an existing park system or expand a trail system. V High recreational appeal, with opportunities for trails, views, and easy access. V Have conservation value, but value for recreation is often greater. There are as many as 800 candidate properties in Western Contra Costa.1 19


Strategic urban projects and former industrial sites. V Examples: Pacheco Marsh, Family Harvest Farm, Community Gardens, Contra Costa Goldfields. V Can be just a few acres. V May serve an urban population or restore a place damaged by commercial and industrial activity. V Benefits are wide-ranging, e.g., outdoor recreation to an underserved population, employment for emancipated foster youth, or restoration of a salt marsh to a functioning ecosystem.

V Needs are diverse, from park design and development to environmental remediation. There is virtually no limit to the number of these we can do.


For our strategic planning, JMLT analyzes parcel data in Alameda County and Contra Costa County. The numbers provided here represent a high level look. Extensive analysis narrows the list to high priority acquisition candidates.

“... for when the light comes, the heart of the people is always right�— John Muir







About JMLT John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) protects and cares for open space, ranches, farms, parkland and shoreline in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. In a generation, John Muir Land Trust has become one of the leading forces for conservation in northern California. With 3,100 acres protected, many beautiful places in the East Bay are permanently preserved for recreation, wildlife habitat and spectacular scenic views. JMLT believes that the vitality of our open spaces is essential to the health of our earth, air, water, native plants and animals — and all of us.





Written by: Jay Dean; Designed by: Meghan Mahler; Printed by: Concord Graphic Arts; © 2019, John Muir Land Trust Photo credits: Adam Weidenbach • Glen Lewis • Jay Dean • Jordan Plotsky • Kristin Salmon • Linus Eukel • Steve Hutchcraft • Susan Wood • Walt Denson










P.O. Box 31, Martinez CA 94553 • 925-228-5460 • •

Protecting the places that make the East Bay special