Newly acquired property, view from meadow

The Wilderness Land Trust Protects Salinan Heritage in the Ventana Wilderness Milpitas Special Interest Area

The Wilderness Land Trust Protects Salinan Heritage in the Ventana Wilderness Milpitas Special Interest Area

Oct. 24, 2014

A 29-acre land acquisition project also protects recreation access and condor habitat


SACRAMENTO, CA … Ancestors of the Salinan people called the upper reaches of the San Antonio River home for many centuries. In 2005, at the urging of Salinan descendants and others, the Milpitas Special Interest Area was created by the Los Padres National Forest.


This historically significant landscape, along with access to its current recreation resources and wildlife habitat, was threatened by development until The Wilderness Land Trust and Los Padres National Forest worked to purchase and transfer a 29-acre private property to public ownership, now included in the wilderness.


“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, it’s important to work with valued partners like The Wilderness Land Trust to protect natural and cultural resources adjacent to the Ventana Wilderness and enhance public access to these special lands,” said Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Robert Baird.


The property is located adjacent to the Milpitas Special Interest Area of the Forest, on the access road to the Santa Lucia Memorial Park. Just 35 air miles southeast of Monterey, acquisition of the property protects campground and trail access to the Wilderness and prevents future development in the home range for the endangered California condor.


"Those who frequent the Ventana Wilderness and surrounding lands all have their special places, but few are as magical and spectacular as Milpitas Special Interest Area (SIA). It has been studied by academics and enjoyed by individuals and families for generations. In 2012, the Ventana Wilderness Alliance facilitated an agreement between Los Padres National Forest and Mountain Heritage Associates to create a comprehensive management plan for the Milpitas SIA with input from the Salinan tribes, recreational users, and the local community. This acquisition by the Wilderness Land Trust further protects the outstanding ecological, scenic and cultural values of the area. We are thankful to the Wilderness Land Trust for their efforts." said Mike Splain, Executive Director of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance.


This is the third property the Trust has protected in the Ventana Wilderness in the last two years—the Trust also protected the 120-acre Lost Valley property in late 2012 and the Three George’s property in late 2013. Both these properties were in the home range of the California condor and along another important access route into the Wilderness, the North Coast Ridge Road, with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and of the vast Santa Lucia mountains to the east. Both had grandfathered motorized access and residential rights, but are each now a protected part of the Ventana Wilderness.


“The land is one of only three properties remaining in private ownership in or adjacent to the Milpitas Special Interest Area,” said Aimee Rutledge, the land trust’s California Program Manager. “Private uses inconsistent with wilderness would ruined an unbroken expanse of meadow along the north fork of the San Antonio River with gorgeous views of the surrounding valley and rock outcrops.”


Two ecological zones dominate the Milpitas Special Interest Area, dry mountain slopes covered by chaparral and a narrow valley with an oak savannah that is crossed by streams joining with the river running through it. Impressive outcrops of bedrock interrupt the valley bottom, helping to create opportunities for plants to grow in shaded, moist environments. Underground, the bedrock interrupts the flow of water, resulting in springs that contribute to moist wetlands and pools of standing water. All of this – the exposed arid brush land, the valley oaks, the stream bottoms, and the rock – provided an ecological diversity and a wealth of food and raw materials for people, going back thousands of years.


The recently protected property is shown with the orange arrow and circle.

Previously completed Lost Valley and Three Georges projects are shown with the blue arrows and circles.


 Close up of the Milpitas Special Interest Area and recently acquired property


The National Wilderness Preservation System is a refuge for animals, plants, clean water, clean air and a foundation for 21st century conservation. It may hold the key to future conservation and the tools for adapting to global climate change. However, the system is still filled with holes, 180,000 acres of private lands that fracture the whole. Across the country there are plans to develop mines, retreats, logging operations and resorts deep within wilderness holdings, fragmenting a resource that cannot afford to be lost.  The Trust’s continuing mission to eliminate these pockets of inholdings and create a seamless wilderness system is vital, echoing the spirit and intent of the original Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Land Trust is the only national organization dedicated solely to buying these lands and adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System.


The Wilderness Land Trust

The Wilderness Land Trust is a small, highly specialized nonprofit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since it was founded in 1992, the non-profit organization has preserved 410 parcels comprised of more than 41,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 90 designated and proposed wilderness areas. The Wilderness Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) organization, has offices in California and Colorado. For more information visit our website


The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which designated 9.1 million acres as the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Wilderness Land Trust’s work is more relevant than ever, striving to protect the integrity of what is now more than 109.5 million wilderness acres for current and future generations to enjoy.


The Wilderness Land Trust is an accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is a 1% for the Planet Non-Profit Partner. Visit to learn how individuals and businesses can support our projects.         

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Since it was founded in 1992, The Wilderness Land Trust organization has preserved 447 parcels comprised of more than 48,872 acres of wilderness inholdings in 103 designated and proposed wilderness areas. 

(Updated 12/2017)