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August 08, 2011

WiLDCOAST Returns from the Wild

A WiLDCOAST site survey mission to the Valle de los Cirios Pacific Coast
A Trestles-esque shoreline on the Valle de los Cirios Pacific Coast

Part of WiLDCOAST’s responsibilities as one of the largest land conservancies on the Baja California Peninsula is annual site surveying to monitor for landscape changes and human impacts on protected properties as well as to evaluate new potential conservation areas.

These trips take us down long dirt roads, deep into Boojum Tree forests and to shorelines where the only other living things besides us have wings, fins or flippers. We spend several dusty days transecting the enormous parcels of the Valle de los Cirios Pacific Coast, dodging gale force afternoon winds and seeking flat ground to set up camp. Our supplies usually begin to run short towards the end of our stays, after the ice melts, and our meals get more and more simple.

Our faces begin to resemble the rugged landscape around us. Layer upon layer of dust, sunscreen and salt accumulate in every pore. We get excited about the little things - some cookies for desert; a really good wave; going to sleep at night. After a few days it’s all over. We finally cross the border, which hours before felt an eternity away, take a shower, put on some clean clothes and readjust to permanent shelter.

Our last trip took us to a northern point in the region where WiLDCOAST has protected 3,330 acres and 1.5 miles of shoreline and is negotiating the purchase of an additional 281 acres and 0.8 miles. The area has a striking resemblance to the iconic Trestles shoreline in Southern California with its points and wetland. If you look west in the evenings as the sun dips behind the headland you’d swear you just finished surfing Lowers and you were headed back to your car parked on El Camino Real.  

But instead of housing developments and the Western White House that sit atop Cotton’s Point in San Clemente, this coastline is home to thousands of shorebirds, curious sea lions and a small fish camp that has been launching their pangas here for 30 years.

WiLDCOAST is working with the fishermen that reside in the camp to protect the land and resources around them. They understand the vulnerability of the precious coastline and are working hard to improve the sustainability of the settlement and their fishing practices.

Unmanaged dumping, invasive species and native species removal are the most prevalent threats to several locations on the 88-mile coastline. Through the instillation of signage, disposal site management and sustainability workshops, WiLDCOAST is seeking to further empower participants such as the fish camp members to be effective stewards of their natural environment and improve the sustainable use of the land.  

For now we are back behind our desks in Imperial Beach, working to finalize several land transactions and carrying out the ongoing task of finding funding to continue protecting the Baja coast. But we know that we shouldn’t get too comfortable.

Sooner than later we will again be seeking flat ground to set up camp in the wild lands of the Cirios coast.      – Zach Plopper