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Star Creek Ranch

A Piece of Central Coast History

Fast Facts

Preserved oak woodland, grassland, and redwood land located in the Pajaro Hills east of Watsonville, the Star Creek Ranch is fully owned and stewarded by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Purchased in 2012, the project marks our first major acquisition in the 24,000-acre Pajaro Hills, which separate Santa Cruz County from southern Santa Clara County.

  • 1,200

    Total Acres
  • 6+

    Creeks & Springs Originate Here
  • 360

    Acres of Redwood Forests
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Grazing land 1
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Why This Land Is Preserved

The hills of Star Creek Ranch are a natural greenbelt between Santa Cruz County and urban growth. Preserving the land ensures homes to mountain lions, bobcats, and steelhead trout. Deer, wild turkeys, hawks, eagles, and even threatened species like the Southwestern pond turtle have all been seen on the ranch. The endangered California Red-legged frog is there, too. Because we own the property, we are able to enhance their environment.

Star Creek Ranch is a critical wildlife linkage between the Santa Cruz Mountains to the north and the Gabilan and Diablo ranges to the south and east. It serves as an important part of the wildlife corridor that leads from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Gabilan Range. More than six creeks and springs originate on the property, including an important Steelhead spawning stream. As part of the greater Pajaro Valley watershed, the property is vital to groundwater recharge.

Funding for the acquisition came from a variety of sources, including $2.5 million from the state Wildlife Conservation Board. The Land Trust used $1.47 million from a $13.5 million Capital Campaign to help fund the acquisition and stewardship of the property, which included a donation from the previous landowners — Pete Pulis and Steve Miller.

Since the mid-nineteenth century, the main use of the property has been timber harvesting. In 1850, lumber extracted and milled on the property was used to build the San Juan Bautista mission. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the property hosted 25 cent per night campsites. In the 1940s and 1950s there was a Girl Scout camp along Star Creek.

Roughly a third of the Star Creek Ranch is redwood forest. We sustainably harvest redwoods, as we have done at the 400-acre Byrne-Milliron Forest outside Corralitos for decades. (See Ep.6 of our Learning the Land podcast) Our practices on Star Creek Ranch demonstrate the compatibility of forestry with habitat and water quality protection. Following the Byrne-Milliron Forest model we create a healthy, unevenly-aged forest that enhances wildlife habitat and provides revenue for stewardship and restoration of the ranch. Funds generated from harvests go toward stewardship and maintenance of the additional 11,850 acres of land under our care.

Available Activities

No public access: This area of historical significance is open for grazing, restricted hunting, and sustainable redwood harvesting only.

  • No human activities allowed

More Information and Updates

Discover the history of this location and check back for news on future projects.


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