The U.S. Census figures that SanJose.com reported on Wednesday show that while the city hasn’t hit a million people yet, the population around San Francisco Bay is growing fairly steadily. New developments, whether homes or businesses, are gobbling up available land at a pace that could increase frenetically if the recession ever ends. Silicon Valley seems to be focused more on the Silicon and less on the Valley. Now, a coalition of foundations and environmental groups are hoping to rein in development.
The group, known as the Living Landscape Initiative, is not opposed to the high tech boom that fuels the growth of Silicon Valley. In fact, several of the foundations that formed the initiative, as well as many of their donors, made their money on that boom. What the foundations want, however, is to maintain the balance between housing and farmland, start-ups and forests. They hope to protect 10,000 acres in Silicon Valley over the next three years, in an effort to protect the balance.
At the heart of this movement is the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, created by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. That foundation is laying out the seed money for the $15 million effort, but insists that its donation is matched 3-to-1. They already have the support of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
The land trusts they are working with are the Save the Redwoods League, the Nature Conservancy, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the Peninsula Open Space Trust, and the Sempervirens Fund. Money raised will be used to purchase land to increase the size of existing parks, and to acquire the development rights on local farmland to ensure that it is not sold off to developers.
Packard Foundation funding is being used to map out the area to target spaces for protection. The three main focuses are the forests, the coast, and the Pajaro River Valley, while some money will be used to create wildlife corridors between parks. “We want these lands to function as a system, not as individual parks, but as a system,” says Audrey Rust, President of the Peninsula Open Space Trust. Not only would wildlife be able to migrate from the safety of one park to another. She also envisions a network of trails connecting the disparate regions.
The Living Landscape Initiative could not come at a better time. Parks are being shut down throughout the state to cope with the growing budget deficit. This private initiative is a chance to buck that trend and ensure that future generations can appreciate the Valley in Silicon Valley.