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two women stand looking over a wooded mountain valley

The Santa Cruz region is home to redwood forests, grasslands, and coastline, as well as some tourist-dependent towns, farms, and universities. Groups with a stake in the future of the land include Native tribes, logging companies, community residents, utilities, farmers, and conservation agencies.

Helping these diverse stakeholders collaborate to protect their shared land is the role of the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network (SCMSN).

“All of these different organizations want different things from the land,” says manager Dylan Skybrook. “They need a way to come together to ensure they can address those needs but also think at a landscape scale to care for the region as a whole.”

The SCMSN provides the research that fosters that perspective. For example, the organization recently commissioned a climate-change vulnerability assessment that reviewed nine important species and 10 habitats in the region. That report will help direct attention and money to the most effective climate-adaptation efforts.

Skybrook’s job involves explain­ing why certain aspects of the report — such as protecting the area’s endangered species — matter to everyone, not just conservation groups. The ­endangered species include coho ­salmon, the San Francisco garter snake, and the California red-legged frog.

“Because when you start taking nodes out of the food web, the whole thing stops functioning,” he notes. “This isn’t just about frogs, snakes, or salmon. Ensuring their survival keeps this ecosystem intact.”

Organizations like the SCMSN provide members with the big-picture view that’s easy to miss from an individual-stakeholder perspective. “Climate change affects all of us on a larger scale, not just a property-by-property scale,” says Skybrook. “That means we need collaboration, not conflict.”

Learn more about the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network at scmsn.net.

This was excerpted from “Climate Champions” which was published in the April 2022 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth Millard is a writer, editor, and farmer based in northern Minnesota.

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