The Nature Conservancy

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The Nature Conservancy

September 15, 1978 Carey Stanton and the Santa Cruz Island Company and The Nature Conservancy [TNC] entered into a Deed of Conservation Easement for Santa Cruz Island. As stated in the Conservation Easement:

  • Grantor intends that the Conservation Easement granted shall run with and burden title to the Island in perpetuity and shall bind grantor, its successors and assigns.
  • The Conservancy agrees by acceptance of the grants herein forever to honor and defend the intentions of the Grantor stated herein...

In this document, agreed upon by both parties, dos and don'ts were clearly laid out. Carey Stanton died on December 8, 1987 and The Nature Conservancy assumed ownership of the western 9/10ths of Santa Cruz Island owned by the Santa Cruz Island Company. Following the death of Carey Stanton, The Nature Conservancy disregarded the terms as set forth in the Conservation Agreement. They have taken multiple actions contrary to the Conservation Easement and contrary to wishes of their largest land donor. To wit:

  • Whereas, grazing activities as currently practiced should be continued pending scientific study and evaluation to determine whether the abrupt termination of such grazing activities would result in the permanent reduction or elimination of floral species or in the uncontrolled or irreversible degradation and deterioration of the Island's unique and delicate ecological balance...

Following Carey Stanton's unexpected death on December 8, 1987, The Nature Conservancy immediately removed the cattle from Santa Cruz Island in a massive round-up and series of back-to-back shipments, without the scientific study or evaluation called for in the Conservation Easement. As a result, the introduced fennel population exploded, creating a most significant disturbance to the island's sensitive resources [CINP]. The fennel explosion caused major direct impacts to native plant communities, rare plant species, and archeological sites. “Fennel only became problematic after the grazing animals were removed from the island in the late 1980s... Digging the fennel out is by far the most effective way to remove fennel...” [Dash & Gleissman, 1994].

  • Grantor states that the following uses and practices are inconsistent with Grantor's intentions and this Conservation Easement: l) the use of biocides [herbicides, pesticides, etc.]

In an attempt to control the fennel, helicopters were engaged to spray Dow's chemical herbicide, Garlon, throughout the island's Central Valley. The Wallace Foundation gave TNC a $500,000 grant to support this effort. Unintended consequences included defoliation of native oak trees and other woody native vegetation hit by the spray. Fennel is slowly reinvading the sprayed areas. .

  • Grantor states that the following uses and practices are inconsistent with Grantor's intentions and this Conservation Easement: h) the subdivision or de facto subdivision of the Island; m) The actual or attempted transfer, conveyance, pledge, hypothecation or release of the Island or any interest in the Island...

In the singular most egregious violation of the Deed of Conservation Easement, in 1999 The Nature Conservancy, by lot line adjustment, conveyed approximately 6,600 acres of Santa Cruz Island to the the Department of the Interior, Channel Islands National Park. Anyone who knew Carey Stanton, including all parties to the original signing of the Conservation Easement, many of whom are still alive today, knew of Carey Stanton's wish that no part of lands owned by the Santa Cruz Island Company ever fall into the hands of the Federal Government.

In the News~

May 6, 1978 [Herald-Jornal]: “Santa Cruz Island, California. Dr. Carey Stanton is selling is beautiful, unspoiled island off the coast of Southern California coast for only $50 an acre. The buyer, The Nature Conservancy, says the purchase of Santa Cruz Island for $2.5 million is ‘perhaps the best land buy since the United States bought Alaska.’ Frank Boren, of The Nature Conservancy, said the group will maintain the island as a wilderness. Stanton said he could have sold the 82-square mile island for millions more to developers, but the Stanton family has been rejecting lucrative offers for 42 years. Stanton owns about 90 percent of the island, 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. ‘My father bought this island in 1936 and loved it to the day he died’, said Stanton. ‘I love this island, too, and I think the best thing that could happen to Santa Cruz Island would be to leave it the way it is. At all cost.’

Stanton gave up his medical practice 20 years ago, when his father died, and took over the family cattle ranch. The cattle are raised on the island and sold on the mainland. ‘I moved out here in the 1950s because my father had no other living children and I felt I had a family responsibility to protect the island against developers,’ Stanton said. Stanton, 55, is a bachelor and has no direct heirs. ‘When I realized I wasn’t immortal, I began to worry about what might happen to the island after I died.’ So he arranged to sell the island to The Nature Conservancy, a national conservation group, which has until July 5 to come up with the money or secure pledges.

A number of rare birds, animals and plants exist on the island, including at least 75 endangered species. At night wild razorback hogs roam, and Stanton never goes for a drive without a high-powered rifle mounted on the dashboard of his Jeep. The island’s rugged topography is virtually unchanged from the way it appeared to the Spanish explorers who set foot on Santa Cruz four centuries ago. The beaches are littered with driftwood and abalone shells, and the lush island valley is fragrant with sweet grass and wild licorice plants. Stanton will continue managing the affairs of the thriving cattle ranch from his island compound after the ale. ‘I couldn’t live full time in the city,’ Stanton said. ‘I never could get used to all that concrete. And the air. Well, once you breathe the air of Santa Cruz Island, there’s nothing to compare.’ Stanton’s ranch is a world of its own. A small housekeeping staff and a dozen laborers live in cabins. Mail and groceries are flown in to a small landing strip. Underground springs provide fresh water. A diesel generator provides the power. He says he doesn’t feel isolated by his offshore lifestyle. ‘I don’t own a boat, plane or helicopter, but there’s nothing that prevents me from chartering a plane if, say, I want to attend a party in Santa Barbara or a concert in Los Angeles. And I do that quite often.’