The Santa Clara River Conservancy (SCRC) has been around since 2009 and has direct ties with Friends of the Santa Clara River (FSCR). The two organizations share a board member, Sandy Hedrick, and Ron Bottorff is an advisor to SCRC. While there is some overlap between the two organizations such as public outreach, education, and restoration work on the river such as the Hedrick Ranch, the two organizations provide different arms of protection for the river.
FSCR has long been involved in biological and cultural protection of river resources since 1993. The most significant difference between SCRC and FSCR is FSCR’s advocacy role in river protection through the environmental review process and litigation. The Newhall Ranch/ Five Points Valencia Project with over 20,000 new homes slated for development over the next 20-30 years is a significant example of past and ongoing efforts by FSCR to reduce impacts to the Santa Clara River. FSCR continues to keep the importance of the river a priority in the community.
A perfect example of collaboration and restoration is the Hedrick Ranch. The Hedrick Ranch Nature Area (HRNA) has an important place in the story of the restoration and conservation of the Santa Clara River. It was the first area of land acquired by The California Coastal Conservancy in 2001 as part of the Santa Clara River Parkway; a vision to protect and restore 25 miles of the Santa Clara River riparian corridor which is continuing today. This was done in partnership with The Hedrick Family and Sandy Hedrick is still at the forefront of protecting the natural landscape and wildlife of this part of the SCR valley. For over 20 years, work between partners such as University of California, FSCR and SCRC has continued to restore the river and riparian landscape which is returning the healthy diversity of natural flora and fauna. Hard work continues to remove Arundo Donax and other highly invasive nonnative plants that contribute significantly to fire hazard and water loss. HRNA sits within active farmland and does not have general public access at this time but volunteer stewardship days with FSCR and guided bird walks run from September through March.
While FSCR mission is to protect and preserve the biological and cultural resources of the river, SCRC’s mission is to secure, hold and manage significant lands and waters that provide habitat for native biodiversity. To this end, SCRC’s goal is to provide a long-term organizational option for establishing conservation easements along the river for those parcels that may better serve as riparian habitat, functional floodplain, groundwater recharge areas, recreation areas, or simply open space. In some cases, a conservation easement may allow a parcel to stay in active agriculture production, creating a buffer zone between urbanization and critical habitat for sensitive species.
The challenge ahead for SCRC is to gain greater membership, community support and accreditation through the Land Trust Alliance. The long range vision is to find mutually beneficial solutions to land use and management and allow the river to continue to provide essential environmental services. Both FSCR and SCRC play different and necessary roles in ensuring the health of the Santa Clara River ecosystem for posterity.