The East Bay Hills define our region’s rich natural heritage. A treasured resource running north-south through Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, these hills are beloved by millions today, and essential for the health and well-being of generations to come. John Muir Land Trust is engaged in a decades-long campaign to identify and protect the most threatened properties in this enduring landscape. Think of a partially completed jigsaw puzzle — a beautiful photograph of these hills — but with many missing pieces. Recent acquisitions such as pristine Carr Ranch and Almond Ranch demonstrate that we can successfully fill in these gaps together. As JMLT actively negotiates new acquisitions your support keeps us moving forward.
East Bay At Risk
The Bay Area’s sizzling economy and surging housing market put enormous development pressure on precious natural lands. Contra Costa is the single most threatened of the nine counties in the region. The populations of Contra Costa and adjacent Alameda County will experience a combined 30% increase over the next thirty years. That is the equivalent of adding nearly one San Francisco or three times the current population of Marin County to the East Bay!
A landmark study* projects that nearly 300,000 acres of Bay Area land are at risk of sprawl development over the next 30 years. Contra Costa has 1 of every 5 acres of those threatened lands. That’s 62,000 acres. Contra Costa has 41% of the area’s at-risk critical habitat lands, and the most land at high risk in the next ten years — enough to cover an area the size of the city of Concord. The East Bay lags in percentage of land protected: while Marin comes in first (56%); Contra Costa (26%) and Alameda (22%) are less than half that.
Fragmented habitat is one of the greatest threats to wildlife. The East Bay Hills form a permanent regional preserve of connected ecosystems of ridgelines, riparian valleys, oak woodlands, and open grasslands. This unbroken habitat shelters special-status species such as mountain lions, golden eagles, western pond turtles, the threatened Alameda whipsnake, and the endangered California red-legged frog. Acquiring critical parcels keeps it intact and provides safe harbor for native species.
Watershed lands absorb and filter rainwater, then feed local rivers, streams, ponds and reservoirs. The waterways in our hills are unusual in that they are largely open and in a natural state, making them an exceptionally pristine source of clean drinking water for hundreds of thousands of East Bay families.
Public parks and preserved open space are vital to community health. The East Bay Hills are woven into a well-designed network of trails that criss-cross our neighborhoods. Each new acquisition adds vital new connections. A bucolic buffer for mind and spirit, our hills give kids a chance to experience nature nearby. Any parent of a child with a smartphone knows that today’s youth are the generation most at risk of losing a personal connection to the outdoors. Conserved lands provide a daily reminder of the natural beauty around us, and why we have chosen to live here. Protecting them preserves the character of our community for generations to come.
JMLT is working with conservation-minded sellers who want their land to be preserved. In gestures of extraordinary generosity, many are granting JMLT options to purchase at reduced prices. We can seize this moment now or lose it. JMLT supporters have made possible a wonderful string of successes. Fernandez Ranch was recently expanded, and we’ve acquired Carr Ranch, Batwing, Painted Rock, and Almond Ranch in just the past few years. We’re on a roll. You can help. In a world of uncertain outcomes, it is certain that we can do this together.
*At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt; Greenbelt Alliance, May 2017