History and Purpose

The purpose of the Bioregional Council is to preserve and restore native biological diversity and processes through the sharing of information, the coordination of activities, the fostering of biological research, the instigation of mutually supported land conservation or habitat enhancement projects, and public education efforts. Members of the Bioregional Council include individuals from state and federal resource management agencies, local governments, land trusts, open space districts, educational institutions, conservation groups, and private properties.

The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council began in the early 1990s, evolving from the Restoration and Resource Management Advisory Committee sponsored by the Sempervirens Fund and co-sponsored by the Santa Cruz Mountains District of the State Parks Department. The Committee held quarterly meetings at which outside experts were asked to address park-related resource management issues. The purpose of the Committee was to provide technical assistance to the State Parks Department, especially as it related to newly acquired park lands that were often in need of revegetation, erosion control, or other restoration activities. As attendance at the meetings significantly grew, it soon became apparent that there were as many non-park staff as park staff attending the meetings, and that the issues being addressed were pertinent to all land managers in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Subsequently the Committee broadened its role and expanded its mission to include the conservation of biodiversity on all lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregion. The name was changed initially to the Santa Cruz Mountains Biodiversity Task Force, and later changed again to the current name, the Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council. Financial and administrative support for the Council to date has come from a number of sources including the Sempervirens Fund and individual donors.

The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council remains as the only group looking at the Bioregion in a holistic manner. The Bioregion contains all or parts of four different counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara) and is divided into two regional planning agencies (AMBAG and ABAG), two administrative districts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and two different State Park Districts. Historically, the Bioregion has been divided by contemporary human settlement patterns into three population-affiliated areas - the north half being considered part of the San Francisco Bay Region, the southwest portion being thought of as part of the Monterey Bay Area, and the southeast portion associated with Santa Clara Valley. Of course, such political and social boundaries are meaningless when it comes to the distribution of flora and fauna within the Bioregion; yet conservation efforts tended to occur on a county-by-county basis with no one looking at the Bioregion as a whole. Such a near-sighted approach to conservation planning was not effectively protecting the biological resources of the Bioregion, and with a population of 6 million people living or working in the Bioregion, and putting tremendous pressure on the remaining native biodiversity and natural habitats, the need for holistic biodiversity planning was apparent.

In 2001, the Bioregional Council was incorporated with the State of California as a nonprofit public benefit corporation. The Bioregional Council corporation is governed by a board of directors who are knowledgeable about local biological resources. Directors of the Bioregional Council are required to be familiar with native flora or fauna, and have a working knowledge of scientific research techniques or science-based habitat management practices.

The conservation of biodiversity in the Santa Cruz Mountains cannot be effective unless public agencies, private organizations, and individual citizens share a commitment to conserving the natural environment of the region. Ordinances, policies, and programs have already been put in place to protect many elements of the region's natural heritage. That experience and a growing body of scientific research demonstrate a degree of support for biodiversity and the need to move beyond efforts focused on the conservation of individual sites, species, and resources, and move toward a more ecosystem-oriented approach. These ecological systems occur throughout the region in a variety of ownerships and jurisdictions. To effectively protect the significant natural areas of this unique Bioregion, public agencies and private groups must coordinate resource management and environmental protection activities, emphasizing regional solutions to regional issues and needs. The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council is dedicated to the pursuit of this goal.

- February, 2002