Botanic Garden and Land Trust Team Up to Preserve 88 Acres in Toro Canyon

September 26, 2017

Land Trust for Santa Barbara County

Photo of Hay Hill

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden have joined forces to preserve Hay Hill, 88 acres of important wildlife and plant habitat.

Conserving land is sometimes the work of generations.

In 2005, longtime Garden supporter Ann Koepfli, recognizing the conservation value of her family land given increasing urban development, gave the Hay Hill property to the Garden. For the next ten years, the Garden owned and managed the property in a manner consistent with its mission and preserving the unique scenery and open space Ann Koepfli believed was of great importance to the people of the County of Santa Barbara. Earlier this year, John Gabbert, a Garden supporter and Trustee, motivated by a desire to support the Garden and see the land permanently protected, decided to buy the property.

"It was important to the Garden that we find a way to ensure that the donor's wishes would be preserved in perpetuity even without our direct ownership. To that end, the Land Trust was the obvious partner in helping to make this happen," said Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

Hay Hill's conservation is just one example of the many ways the Land Trust works with willing, private landowners to preserve special places in perpetuity. In this case, the Land Trust is using a conservation easement to sever some development rights from the property. John Gabbert will renovate and expand one existing residence, but the vast majority of the property's coastal sage scrub, live oak woodland, chaparral, and grassland will remain untouched.

"In John, we are fortunate to have a landowner willing to embrace the requirements of the deed, supportive of the mission of the Garden, and be interested in ensuring the permanent protection of the property with the Land Trust," said Chet Work, Land Trust Executive Director.

John Gabbert adds, "this was an opportunity to participate in preserving this unique native property forever while at the same time strengthening the Garden's long-term ability to encourage us all to participate in saving this planet we call home."

Since 1985, The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County has worked with community groups, willing landowners and others to preserve, restore, and manage open space, wildlife habitat, and family farms and ranches throughout the County. To date, the Land Trust has helped to preserve more than 25,000 acres of natural resource and working land, including the Arroyo Hondo Preserve, Sedgwick Reserve, Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve, Coronado Butterfly Preserve, Point Sal, Carpinteria Salt Marsh, and several ranches on the Gaviota Coast. Visit for more information.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden conserves and promotes California native plants through our gardens, research, and education, and serves as a model for sustainability. Founded in 1926, the Garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, nursery, and gift shop. For more information about the Garden, please visit

Download this article in PDF format