Local environmental conservation group Save Mount Diablo recently completed what it called the largest and most consequential fundraising effort in its 50-year history, garnering enough funds to secure 1,681 acres of land in nine different properties.
Save Mount Diablo announced earlier this month that it has raised $15 million for the newly protected lands through its "Forever Wild Capital Campaign," which will help preserve 2.6 square miles -- an area larger than Emeryville or the San Francisco Presidio -- of strategically important land on or around Mount Diablo.
Described as "rich in conservation value," the land acquisition will be used to protect natural resources and wildlife, including federally endangered wildlife like the California red-legged frog -- which lives on several of the properties.
"Despite various challenges, like an over year-long national crisis and pandemic period, we stayed strong and focused on our Forever Wild Campaign and we cannot thank our great campaign donors enough for helping us successfully conclude this effort that will pay lasting green dividends to our communities and local flora and fauna," Save Mount Diablo Executive Director Ted Clement said in a statement.
"When supporters see us responsibly managing our funds, when they receive sincere gratitude from us, when they see us involved in important advocacy battles, when they are inspired by our great team, when they see we are capable and skilled fundraisers, when they see great leadership, when they see us successfully complete land acquisition projects, when they see great educational efforts that are building the bench for land conservation, when they see us carefully stewarding our lands, and when they see great and smart communications from us, they want to give and support us -- and they are in huge and historic ways," he added.
The most recent property that funds were raised with the Forever Wild Capital Campaign is a 154-acre area owned by Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association. Known as a part of the "Missing Mile," the property crosses a square mile of private land on North Peak's face -- an extremely important section of the mountain that conservationists say will preserve the scenic value of the peak.
After raising $1.04 million as a part of the final push to close Forever Wild, Save Mount Diablo is now in a position to acquire a perpetual conservation easement for the property, which conservationists anticipate will be secured later this year.
"Through Forever Wild we also developed our fundraising capabilities to better support our time-sensitive land conservation mission into the future. We truly have much to celebrate and be grateful for," Clement added.
Forever Wild was launched by Save Mount Diablo in 2013 with an original campaign target of $15 million. Using these funds it was able to acquire the expansive 1,080-acre Curry Canyon Ranch, which Save Mount Diablo staff called "one of the most important and spectacular private properties remaining in Contra Costa County."
Since the Curry Ranch acquisition, Save Mount Diablo has added to its list of protected lands with Smith Canyon (28 acres), Highland Springs (105 acres), Big Bend (51 acres), Hanson Hills (76 acres) and Anderson Ranch (95 acres). It has also laid its eyes on the 87 acre North Peak Ranch, which it has recently been able to raise the funds to acquire.
Additionally, through a conservation easement staff say they have protected the five-acre Rideau property and that they now have the funds to permanently protect the 154-acre Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association property -- also through using a conservation easement.
While Forever Wild funds are primarily raised for land acquisition, staff say the campaign also raised a substantial amount of funds for Save Mount Diablo's stewardship endowment fund and legal defense fund, which help sustain the group's long-term missions.
Staff say the stewardship endowment fund will "generate interest that can support native habitat restoration, fire abatement activities, invasive species removal, and other stewardship activities that keep land healthy and safe."
The complementary legal defense fund on the other hand serves as the legal arm of the organization, ensuring that the group has the financial resources to legally defend conservation easements and land purchases.
"Together, these funds will help sustain Save Mount Diablo's land conservation work for years to come," staff said in a statement.
Residents can learn more about Save Mount Diablo and its Forever Wild Campaign online at www.savemountdiablo.org.