They Did It!

With a $1 million fundraising goal 85 percent met, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has moved to fulfill a key condition of building a wildlife crossing under Highway 17.

by Hilltromper staff

Dec. 22, 2014—With its ambitious Wildlife Crossing campaign still going strong, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County announced today that it has bought 280 acres of land on the east side of Highway 17 at Laurel Curve, putting a wildlife crossing at that site within reach.

The purchase of the"McDougal property" leaves only one parcel—the 190-acre Marywood property that lies to the west of Laurel Curve—to be secured from development, a major requirement for Caltrans to build the crossing. The Land Trust purchased 10 acres on the east side of the highway in February.

In a statement, Executive Director Terry Corwin said that the Land Trust had raised $850,000 from more than 1,000 donors since launching its $1 million fundraising drive in September. That leaves $150,000 the organization hopes will come in by the campaign end date of Dec. 31.

Read Why Does The Puma Cross The Road?
Read Wildlife Crossings: Good for Deer, Too

"We have gone out on a limb here," said Corwin, "and we are trusting that the community will step forward."

Deputy Director Stephen Slade said the campaign drew a lot of new donors, including some from Santa Clara Valley, and represented a "huge expansion" of their donor base. "It's really interesting," he says. "We got a huge number of $1,000 gifts from new donors. We've had two $10,000 gifts from new donors."

"I did not expect it to do this well," he confesses. "Now I know what they're talking about when they talk about charismatic megafauna."

The iconic mountain lion has been the face of the Land Trust's wildlife crossing campaign. Since 2007, 13 pumas, the region's apex predator, have died trying to cross Highway 17. Countless deer have died as well, and the toll is rising.

The next campaign will feature equally charismatic figures: the owner of the 190-acre Marywood property is a Dominican order of nuns based in San Jose. When their mission was announced at a Dec. 3 panel about the wildlife crossing held at Hotel Paradox, it drew applause. It is: "to care for all creation."

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