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Landmarks Focus: Protected for all to enjoy.

PictureFremont Canyon

​After a rigorous review of the biological and geological significance of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks in 2006, the land was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.  A similar review in 2008 led to the land being designated as the first ever State Natural Landmark.  These designations honor and highlight the diversity and rarity of the plants and animals that call the landmarks home, as well as the unique geological makeup of the land.  However, these designations don’t provide formal protections for the land.  For that, we can thank a patchwork of conservation plans and easements put in place, piece by piece, over time to protect the land forever. 

The most significant of these agreements is probably the Central/Coastal Orange County Natural Community Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP). This pioneering regional conservation plan, completed in 1996, provides regulatory certainty for local governments and private landowners, while guiding public owners and land managers in their long-term stewardship activities. The Irvine Ranch Conservancy partners closely with public landowners such as OC Parks, the City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach to help them fulfill their commitments to the NCCP/HCP and to network together to achieve an even higher level of stewardship over time.

While the NCCP/HCP covers much of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, other portions of the landmarks are protected by conservation easements controlled by The Nature Conservancy.  A conservation easement is an agreement from the landowner to forfeit development rights or limit certain types of land use for conservation purposes.  These rights are given to an outside entity, like The Nature Conservancy.  In return, the landowner retains ownership of the land and can receive potential tax benefits as a result of entering into the agreement.  This arrangement provides an incentive for private landowners to preserve and protect wildlands when it otherwise might be more profitable to develop the land or exploit its natural resources, and they help groups like The Nature Conservancy achieve their mission of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. 

The Nature Conservancy currently holds easements on over 3 million acres of lands within the United States.  Their efforts, along with regional conservation plans like the NCCP/HCP, allow for wildlands like the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks to be preserved in perpetuity so generations can experience and appreciate the wonders of our natural world.