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This is a view, looking from Bonny Doon, towards the ocean, on the property near Davenport, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. In one of the largest land preservation deals in the Bay Area, five environmental groups will pay $30 million to buy 8,532 acres on the Santa Cruz coast from Cemex, a cement giant based in Mexico. The property, which is 8 miles long, extends from the tiny town of Davenport from Cemex's cement plant high into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Covered with redwood, it has been owned by companies that have operated the cement plant since 1905. The plant closed three years ago, and now the Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save the Redwoods League and other groups, funding with donations from Silicon Valley foundations, are buying the land to stop it from being developed. (Karen T. Borchers/Mercury News)

DAVENPORT -- A coalition of conservation groups has submitted an application for funding to the state, with plans to permanently protect some of the 8,500 acres near Davenport they purchased last year.

Almost a year ago, the Peninsula Open Space Trust, Sempervirens Fund, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Save the Redwoods League pooled their money to purchase the property, a $30 million deal hailed as one of the largest land preservation deals in the Bay Area. The land previously was owned by Cemex, a cement plant that fell victim to the tough economy and closed its doors in 2009.

Since the land purchase went through, the conservation groups have been hammering out the details of a management plan, including holding two community meetings earlier this year to get input on how best to use the land once it's opened up to the public.

Crews have also been surveying the forests, streams and wildlife corridors to determine which areas should be restored, sold off for logging -- one of the deal's provisions allows timber companies to continue operations in some areas -- or fall under an easement for permanent protection, according to Reed Holderman, executive director of the Sempervirens Fund.

But figuring out which areas to protect will take some time, and the state Wildlife Conservation Board likely will not decide for at least another 18 months whether to approve the $10 million grant application, said Stephen Slade, deputy director of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.

"It's a complicated project, and they're (the state) going to need time to look at the draft easement and application and conservation plan and prepare a separate appraisal to find out what the easement is worth," Holderman said.

When that deal goes through, the title will be held by both the Save the Redwoods League and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Both are campaigning to raise funds to recoup some of the costs of the original land purchase, as well as for costs related to the easement.

Two longtime members of the Save the Redwoods League recently agreed to a dollar-for-dollar match up to $100,000 through the end of the year. Suzanne Moss, the director of development, said about $31,000 has been raised so far toward that match.

And the Land Trust is just $1 million shy of a $13.5 million campaign launched last year, with hopes of raising the remaining funds through donations by the end of December.

Some of that money will be used for the easement, Slade said, and some of it to close a deal on 1,200 acres east of Watsonville that's filled with hilly grasslands and wooded oaks.

"We view that as the natural greenbelt between Santa Cruz County and the Highway 101 growth corridor," he said, adding it's "pretty much 'Old California' " and "really unknown to most people in the county."

Follow Sentinel reporter Kimberly White on Twitter at Twitter.com/kwhite95066

AT A GLANCE

YEAR-END FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN

Two members of the Save the Redwoods League will provide matching funding up to $100,000 through the end of the year. About $31,000 has been raised so far. For information, go to www.savetheredwoods.org.
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County hopes to raise $1 million by Dec. 31, the final amount needed to close out a $13.5 million fundraising campaign that launched last year. For information, go to www.landtrustsantacruz.org.