North Coyote Valley near San José might look unremarkable in the context of the Bay Area’s 1.2 million acres of unprotected land. But there’s actually nothing quite like it. The valley represents one of the few available undeveloped connections between two biologically rich areas: the Diablo Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Taken together, the three create a wildlife corridor that runs from Walnut Creek to Santa Cruz.
The importance of the valley from a wildlife protection perspective recently motivated conservation groups to purchase North Coyote Valley for $93 million. Now, the Conservation Lands Network 2.0—a digital package that includes a land use dataset, an “Explorer” tool to help interpret it, and a set of new conservation targets based on it—aims to make such calculations transparent to anyone.
Developed by the Bay Area Open Space Council and released in November, CLN 2.0 establishes five specific conservation goals with the top priority of protecting 2.5 million acres—half of the Bay Area’s land resources—by 2050. Its accompanying digital tool, the Explorer, shows how a given piece of land helps meet those goals. Users receive both a color-coded assessment and detailed information about how that land contributes to meeting the goals. Taking all that into account, North Coyote Valley is shaded blue in CLN 2.0’s maps, an “essential” conservation territory.
The software creates room for nuance in cases where a piece of land is not crucial for obvious reasons but is still, in the scheme of things, important. Take the N3 Ranch, a 50,000-acre parcel for sale near Livermore. On the CLN 2.0 map, N3 is shaded tan, the lowest-priority indicator. But with its sheer acreage, N3 adds significantly to the region’s habitat and biodiversity goals. Its purchase would help meet regional protection targets for several vegetation types, as well as preserve 15 miles of high-priority streams. N3 may not be “essential” like Coyote Valley, but it still matters. With CLN 2.0, users can see why.