The California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) voted in April to permanently protect nearly 20 square miles of land in eastern San Luis Obispo County as the North Carrizo Ecological Reserve. This new state reserve will cover 12,168 acres and is home to a suite of imperiled, grassland-associated species listed under the federal and state endangered species acts. The area also supports approximately 200 tule elk, a native species found only in California.
“Defenders of Wildlife is proud to have played a key role in protecting this sensitive habitat in the northern Carrizo Plain,” said Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Assuring this ecologically important migration corridor is protected in perpetuity will ensure that rare species like San Joaquin kit fox, tule elk and pronghorn will survive, along with responsible renewable energy development in this fragile and unique ecosystem.”
The North Carrizo Ecological Reserve is comprised of lands acquired for mitigation purposes to offset environmental impacts from the 3,510-acre Topaz Solar Farm, which became fully operational in 2013. Defenders of Wildlife and our conservation partners reached a settlement agreement with the project developers, which resulted in additional land preservation above and beyond what state and federal agencies required for project mitigation.
According to the FGC, management objectives for the North Carrizo Ecological Reserve aim to:
- Protect, restore and enhance native habitats, aid the recovery of federally and state-listed endangered and threatened species;
- Enhance passage of pronghorn, elk and San Joaquin kit fox through the reserve and to other protected lands in the vicinity, such as the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve, and the Carrizo Plains National Monument; and
- Protect and enhance native grassland, buckwheat shrub, and vernal pool habitats on-site. Monitor and manage the sensitive native species on site, in addition to those that are state or federally-listed. Conserve diversity of native plant and animal species within the reserve.
The North Carrizo Ecological Reserve is the fifth such preserve in San Luis Obispo County, joining Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve, Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve, Chorro Creek Ecological Reserve and Cambria Pines Ecological Reserve.