Partnership between Caltrans and Elkhorn Slough Foundation transfers 167 acres of pristine wetlands

By on February 18, 2018

Being hailed as a “first of its kind partnership” the Transportation Agency for Monterey County and Caltrans recently transferred 167 acres of land to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) for the permanent conservation of the Elkhorn Highlands Reserve. Caltrans had purchased the property in 2008 to offset environmental impacts for the Highway 101 Prunedale Improvement Project in North Monterey County.

The Elkhorn Highlands Reserve includes the area’s largest acreage of previously unprotected maritime chaparral. The property encompasses six acres of seasonal freshwater wetlands, providing habitat for the endangered California tiger salamander and other threatened amphibians — a key element of the environmental value for mitigating impacts. The land is also home to several rare and sensitive native plant species, including the federally endangered Yadon’s rein orchid and the federally threatened Monterey Spineflower.

“The California Department of Transportation is pleased and proud to have helped pioneer an additional method to ensure that environmental impacts from Highway Projects are fully mitigated,” said Richard Rosales, Caltrans deputy director of Project Management. He continued saying, “…and we can expand the conservation value of this work by partnering with community organizations like the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.”

“This important conservation land would have been developed and its natural value lost if not for the resources and focus of Caltrans staff,” says Mark Silberstein, executive director of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. “This transaction points the way for future cooperative efforts to provide both for safe highways and to conserve key natural resources for Californians.”

The recent dedication ceremony last week marking the transfer of the 167 acres was attended a number of local dignitaries including: Luis Alejo, former California Assemblyman and current supervisor for Monterey County; John Phillips, chairman of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County Board of Directors and current Supervisor for Monterey County; Richard Rosales, deputy director of Project Management, Caltrans–District 5; and Mark Silberstein, executive director of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.

The transfer of the acreage of pristine wetlands and woodlands from Caltrans to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation is valued at $6.5 million in property and management funds. ESF exists to conserve and restore the Elkhorn slough and its watershed.