Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Buying Inholdings to Strengthen Land and Habitat Protection

Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Buying Inholdings to Strengthen Land and Habitat Protection

People often assume that national parks and preserves are big blocks of protected areas. In fact, many preserves contain a mix of public and private lands. Depending upon how they are used, these often quite small non-public “inholdings” can threaten the ecological integrity of larger protected areas. Most conservation organizations, however, focus on larger, higher-profile acquisitions.

Since its creation in 2000, Resources Legacy Fund has worked to purchase strategically-located parcels of fewer than 500 acres. Many are smaller than 50 acres. A primary arena for this work has been the vast network of protected areas in the California desert, including Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, the Mojave Desert National Preserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and numerous wilderness and wilderness study areas located on desert lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The benefit of these purchases exceeds the acreage involved. By deploying philanthropic acquisition funds strategically, RLF has helped to create clusters of land parcels that collectively provide protection to important blocks of contiguous land or wildlife corridors. RLF’s grants have affected more than 80 existing protected areas, by expanding, completing, or connecting them. They also have protected habitat for more than 83 listed rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species and helped create more federal designations for permanent protection.

For the California desert national parks alone, RLF and its donor partner have funded more than 750 purchases totaling nearly 133,000 acres, through more than $27 million in grants that leveraged almost $14 million in additional funding. Overall, in other national parks in California and elsewhere, RLF spearheaded nearly 780 purchases totaling almost 236,000 acres, with grants totaling almost $33 million that leveraged over $73 million dollars from other sources.

In the case of Beauty Mountain in southern Riverside County, RLF’s strategic purchase of inholdings and financial support of groups advocating for California wilderness kick-started a stalled campaign to grant federal protection to the relatively pristine watershed. RLF worked with members of both parties in Congress and played a key intermediary role, resulting in the March 2009 designation as wilderness for 310 square miles of land that includes Beauty Mountain.




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