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 Monterey Peninsula Herald
Friday March 9, 2007

Ventana Wilderness gets bigger

160 acres near hot springs


Herald Staff Writer

A 160-acre tract of land near Tassajara Hot Springs has been purchased by a nonprofit organization and will be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service to become part of the Ventana Wilderness.

The Wilderness Land Trust announced Thursday that it has purchased the historic Horse Pasture property in the northern Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest from the late Robert Beck, his widow, Anna Beck of Carmel, and the the Becks' son, Adam Beck of San Anselmo.

The Beck family is the former owner of Tassajara Hot Springs.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but funding also was provided by the Big Sur Land Trust, said Nicole Nedeff, vice president of the Wilderness Land Trust.

Adding the horse pasture will expand the Ventana Wilderness to 240,184 acres, she said, and guarantees that the popular Horse Pasture Trail will remain open for public enjoyment in perpetuity.

The property is near the trail head just north of Tassajara Hot Springs and north of Tassajara Road, Nedeff said.

Livestock were once driven down the trail to graze in the pasture's meadowlands, the only place near the hot springs where grazing grass was available, she said.

"There never was a structure there, as far as we know. It's always been undeveloped."

The property borders Ventana Wilderness on three sides, Nedeff said.

The process of transferring it to the Forest Service is expected to take several months, she said.

The Horse Pasture was named for the flat meadows where wranglers used to hold livestock when stage coaches serviced Tassajara Hot Springs. The property was identified by the Wilderness Land Trust as a high priority conservation acquisition because of watershed and recreational features, as well as the potential threat of development of a wilderness retreat.

"The rising value of undeveloped property in Monterey County made selling the land attractive for the owners, and we are thankful that we could step in to secure the site and maintain its wilderness values," Nedeff said.

The parcel contains chamise-dominated chaparral and a mixed Oak-Coulter Pine forest. Stands of the endemic Santa Lucia fir are tucked into rocky canyons that flank the meadows. Springs on the property contribute perennial flow to tributaries serving Tassajara Creek, which provides spawning habitat for the steelhead trout that negotiate difficult passage upstream through the Salinas and Arroyo Seco watershed.

Founded in 1993, the Carbondale, Colo.-based Wilderness Land Trust is a nonprofit, publicly supported charity that works to purchase private lands within wilderness and transfer them to public ownership. The Big Sur Land Trust also helps finance purchase of private land on the Central Coast for conservation purposes.

Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416 or

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