Celebrating Jenner Headlands Preserve’s Past, Present, and Future!Oct 4, 2023
SANTA ROSA, CA: Nestled along the ruggedly beautiful California coastline, Jenner Headlands Preserve stands as a testament to the enduring bond between land and community. Its journey from wilderness to preserved paradise is a story of collaboration, stewardship, and the shared commitment to safeguarding our planet’s precious resources. As we look back at its path to protection, we are reminded of the collective effort of public and private partners that pulled their resources together to overcome the many challenges that encumbered the long road to conservation. Today, we join The Wildlands Conservancy, the current land stewards, in celebrating five years of public access to this iconic landscape.
The tale of the preserve begins with its acquisition by Sonoma Land Trust in 2009. At the time, this was the largest land conservation project in Sonoma County history – a $36 million investment for the purchase of 5,630 acres of coastal landscape that, at the time, was being considered for subdivision and construction of40 estate homes. Sonoma County Ag + Open Space contributed just over $9 million to the acquisition, and in the process acquired a conservation easement to ensure the preserve’s diverse natural resources would be forever protected.
The five-year fundraising effort was spearheaded by Amy Chesnut, the land trust acquisitions director at the time, who facilitated partnerships with several funding agencies including Ag + Open Space, the State Coastal Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Board, NOAA, and The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and cultivated the support of generous donors to piece together the purchase price and finalize the deal.
“The Sonoma coastline is core to our identity as a county,” said Ag + Open Space General Manager Misti Arias. “The conservation of Jenner Headlands Preserve is a guiding light for what land conservation can do for our communities – provide us all with vibrant and healthy ecosystems, beauty and awe, and space for people, plants, and wildlife to adapt and flourish.”
This vital step in preserving the land’s integrity and beauty would not have been possible without the individuals and organizations who recognized the exceptional value of this coastal treasure and rallied support to secure the necessary funding for the acquisition. Through their dedication, a crucial chapter in the preservation of the Jenner Headlands was written, ensuring its protection for generations to come.
But the significance of the Jenner Headlands extends far beyond its acquisition. This coastal haven serves as a testament to the land conservation movement and now more than ever, this property signifies the potential for the climate resilience work that must protect what we have left in order to reduce the worst effects of a changing climate.
“It could be said that the Jenner Headlands project emphasized the growing shift in the land conservation community – one that is becoming more and more important today in the face of climate change impacts – restoring the ecological function of our natural lands,” said Eamon O’Byrne, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust. “When we completed the robust integrated resource management plan that was the blueprint for the stewardship of this iconic coastal ranch, we envisioned the long-term health of this landscape which The Wildlands Collaborative has implemented with much success. We are grateful for their careful stewardship of the land and their dedication to public access to the preserve.”
In 2013, SLT transferred the preserve to The Wildlands Conservancy for long-term management and public access coordination. Then, in 2014 SLT completed the acquisition of the adjacent Pole Mountain property and created a 6,368-acre protected landscape. Thanks to our partnership with The Wildlands Conservancy, hikers can now trek from the shores of the Pacific to the Pole Mountain summit at 2,204’, where they can witness firsthand the thriving coastal grassland, riparian and forested ecosystems and spectacular views of the rugged Sonoma Coast.
Today, Jenner Headlands is not only a sanctuary for nature but also a living laboratory for ecological restoration. Prescribed fire and natural resource restoration initiatives are essential components of the ongoing efforts to revitalize the land’s health and vitality. These controlled burns help rejuvenate the landscape, clear away invasive species, and encourage the regrowth of native plants. The result is a harmonious ecosystem that thrives, providing habitat for a diverse array of flora and fauna.
For the local community, Jenner Headlands offers a sanctuary for solace and reflection, a place to escape the chaos of urban life and reconnect with the natural world. It provides opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and simply basking in the tranquility of the Pacific Ocean’s gentle waves meeting the rugged coastline. Families and individuals alike find respite and inspiration in the quiet majesty of this coastal preserve.
In celebrating Jenner Headlands, we pay homage to the visionaries at the Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, and the many others who donated their time and support to protect it forever. Their commitment to preserving this coastal treasure, their dedication to fostering ecological restoration, and their recognition of its importance to the community are all testaments to the power of collective action in safeguarding Earth’s most cherished places. Jenner Headlands stands as a beacon of hope and a reminder of our duty to protect and cherish the natural world for generations to come.
About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. The agency is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 123,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org