It’s Official: Santa Susana Permanently Conserved!

Thanks to the vision and generosity of The Boeing Company, together we have permanently conserved nearly 2,400 acres of the Santa Susana site located in Ventura County, California.  This land, which supported research and development essential to America’s space program, is now home to mountain lions, bobcat, deer and bear, with 135 bird species that can be spotted in the skies above.

North American Land Trust (NALT) President Steve Carter explained, “This property represents an important link in a regional wildlife corridor, essential for the survival of mountain lion survival. Knowing that the property is protected forever is exciting, and we are eager to continue collaborating with our partners at Boeing to realize its future.”

Ten years ago, Boeing pledged to preserve the Santa Susana site as open space, and after years of hard work and a Conservation Easement with NALT, that promise has come true.  Boeing committed itself to this land and received certification for its educational programs from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a conservation organization that works exclusively with corporate landowners to create conservation programs that protect and enhance wildlife habitat around the world.  Through WHC Conservation Certification, which requires an extensive third party review process, Boeing was recognized for implementing several conservation projects, including wildlife habitat educational programs.

Later, in 2016, at the WHC Conservation Conference—where corporate conservation professionals come together to learn, network and celebrate achievements—NALT and Boeing fostered a partnership that would create a pathway to the permanent conservation of Santa Susana.  WHC Senior Director Thelma Redick welcomed this alliance, stating that, “Wildlife Habitat Council is very proud to have been a part of the Santa Susana collaboration from the beginning, and as the partnership grew, this important project represents the very best of what the corporate community and non-profits can do when they work together.”

After quickly getting to work and collaborating with NALT on plans for the future of this important piece of land, Boeing’s shared vision officially became reality last month thanks to a perpetually binding Conservation Easement held by NALT.  As Steve Shestag, Boeing Director of Environment, elaborated, “Our vision is that Santa Susana will continue to be a place where mountain lions roam free, cultural artifacts remain undisturbed and oak woodlands have the opportunity to thrive. We remain committed to completing a cleanup that fully protects everyone who will enjoy this vast open space habitat as well as our neighbors in the community.”

NALT welcomes this incredible conservation project, because it gives us the opportunity to conserve:

  1. Diverse animal and plant communities that exist today
  2. A significant link in a wildlife corridor that is essential to the survival of the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains
  3. Cultural resources sacred to multiple Native American tribes

This large site supports an abundance of native plants, including the Federally Endangered Braunton’s milk-vetch and the California State Rare Santa Susana tarplant.  Pollinators such as the bumblebee, sweat bee, leafcutter bee and honeybee are vital in the Santa Susana tarplant reproduction—as this plant cannot self-pollinate—and they frequent the milk-vetch’s enticing, bright purple flower.  Thanks to these pollinator-rich species, the Pollinator Partnership has conducted a variety of onsite studies, documenting plant-pollinator interactions to develop the best possible conservation and management strategies, like using pollinator seed mixes to increase the occurrence of native bee species.  Other important pollinators flying overhead consist of 135 species of birds, including golden eagle (a California fully protected species) and loggerhead strike (California species of special concern), and 12 bat species.

Often caught on wildlife cameras, reclusive animals including mountain lion, gray fox and bobcat live in the coastal live oak woodland and other diverse habitat found on this Conservation Area.  These animals are able to roam near and far because Santa Susana is a crucial link in a vital habitat corridor, connecting the inland Los Padres National Forest to the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and leading California mountain lions to new habitats and potential mates while avoiding life-threatening freeways.  Besides being an important piece of land for wildlife and plant species, Santa Susana is also culturally significant for multiple Native American Tribes who use this area for spiritual ceremonies, just as their ancestors did centuries ago.

We are eager to join with The Boeing Company and its long-standing environmental and community partners, including San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, Southwestern Herpetologist Society, the Chumash and Tataviam Native American Tribes (for whom this site is sacred), Pollinator Partnership, Wildlife Habitat Council and others.  Together, we will help plan the activities and facilities that will ensure the protection of the sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources unique to Santa Susana.  Recording this Conservation Easement is just the beginning!

More information on the protection and site cleanup efforts of Santa Susana can be found on the Santa Susana website. All photos provided by The Boeing Company and NALT Conservation Biologists.

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