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Land Trust Deal Will Preserve Nearly 1800 Acres Of Prime Ranchland On Central Coast From Development

One of the most scenic ranches on the Central Coast, a place with sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, has now been protected from development forever.

The 1700 acre Hill Ranch northwest of San Luis Obispo is mostly pristine property with natural woodlands and a wide range of wildlife.

Daniel Bohlman is with the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, which engineered the $3.75 million dollar deal to permanently preserve the ranch from development. Bohlman says not only is the property home to a wide range of wildlife, it provides a key link to migration by animals from Ventura County, to Monterey County.

The ranch has been owned by the same family, the Fitzhugh family, since the late 1800’s. Now, the deal isn’t for the sale of the property. It’s something called an agricultural conservation easement. The easements are used by conservation groups to protect land from large scale projects like housing development.

Here’s how it works. A farmer, or rancher might be tempted to cash out, and sell a big chunk of land to a developer. Under a conservation easement, the property owner can get some of the cash value out of their land by signing an agreement which says it can never be developed.

The Conservancy pieced together a combination of funding to make the deal happen. The state Department of Conservation and State Coastal Conservancy kicked in money, while the family also made in effect a major contribution by lowering the price below the appraised value.

Bohlman says the Hill Ranch isn't open to the public, but people can experience it through special guided tours.

The conservancy is hoping to get more of the land along the Highway 46 west corridor protected in the next five years. They’re hoping the new Hill Ranch deal has created a model, and opened a door to preservation in the future.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.