Five prime properties totaling 948 acres will gain protection in the first very successful round of Orange County Measure M land acquisitions.

Adopted in 2008, Measure M renewed a transportation sales tax and allocated up to $240 million as mitigation for freeway projects. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) administers the program. A Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) was initiated for impact analysis and comprehensive or “programmatic” mitigation that addresses regional ecosystem needs. Very importantly, OCTA also advanced early funding to take advantage of acquisition opportunities, and following a rigorous scientific process, the first “tranche” of properties has now been acquired.

In Trabuco Canyon, which forms a low elevation wildlife linkage between larger Central and Southern reserve areas, three properties have been purchased and one is expected to close escrow shortly. Fine coastal sage scrub and oak woodlands are the predominant habitat types. In addition, an important addition was made to Chino Hills State Park, including rare walnut woodlands. When management costs are factored in, the total cost is $25 million. These purchases complement previously approved restoration projects, and additional acquisitions are anticipated in the coming months.

EHL’s executive director serves on the Environmental Oversight Committee advising and monitoring the Measure M process, and we congratulate OCTA on a fully accountable and public process. Two celebrations were held to mark the purchases, which continue to build an open space legacy for Orange County.