79 acres and what do you get? LeoMar Preserve for the missing Lynx at Olivenhain

Martha Blane and Leonard Wittwer stroll along a part of the 79 acres named LeoMar Preserve in their honor/Escondido Creek Conservancy

“The LeoMar preserve is important as is every part of our beautiful planet. We must always do our best to protect and preserve our precious earth.”

— Martha Blane, namesake of the newly created LeoMar Preserve at Olivenhain

In a day that will live in conservation, Escondido Creek Conservancy officials said the group closed escrow Monday, June 7, 2021 on 79 Olivenhain acres representing the centerpiece of the Conservancy’s newest wildlife sanctuary.

Called LeoMar Preserve, it was named to honor Leonard Wittwer and Martha Blane, two Conservancy founders instrumental in the success of the now 30-year-old land trust.

The acquisition further supports preservation efforts that began with the Conservancy’s “Save 1,000 Acres” campaign in the upper Escondido Creek watershed, and honors two of the Conservancy’s founders.

This acquisition continues the Escondido Creek Conservancy’s commitment to creating wildlife corridors in North San Diego County as part of its on-going Missing Lynx campaign.

The recent purchase of 79 acres of land adjacent to the Gaty reservoir in Olivenhain will serve as the centerpiece of the Conservancy’s newest wildlife sanctuary, called LeoMar Preserve, named to honor Leonard Wittwer and Martha Blane, two Conservancy founders instrumental in the success of the now 30-year old land trust.

The purchase price was was just over $2 million. Funding came through a State of California Wildlife Conservation Board courtesy of Propositions 68 and 84, and a sub-grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Section 6 of the Federal Endangered Species Act.

“Leonard and Martha understand the intrinsic value of the native coastal SoCal sage scrub and chaparral habitats that once covered most of southern California, said Betsy Keithley, a member of the Escondido Creek Conservancy Board of Directors.

“They have committed a great part of their lives to ensuring that as much as possible continues to thrive,” Keithley continued. “It is an honor for the Escondido Creek Conservancy to be able to name a preserve after them.”

Sunshiny Day at LeoMar Preserve/Escondido Creek Conservancy

Wittwer has been on the Board since 1991. He has been central to the growth of the Conservancy’s land protection program, and currently serves as board president, according to Keithley.

Blane served as the very first board president, at a time when it was uncommon to see women in non-profit leadership roles. The preserving pair have devoted thousands of volunteer hours to the Conservancy over the past three decades, Keithley said, adding that the group’s Board of Directors wanted to acknowledge their contributions through the creation of a beautiful Olivenhain preserve.

“Partners like the Escondido Creek Conservancy are key to helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fulfill its conservation mission,” said Jonathan Snyder, Assistant Field Supervisor for the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. “Conservation of this habitat will ensure plants and wildlife in the area continue to persist.”

The LeoMar Preserve is located in the lower Escondido Creek watershed in the Olivenhain community of Encinitas. It is home to sensitive habitats and threatened and endangered species including the coastal California gnatcatcher.

Over the next few years, the Conservancy will be protecting additional properties and adding them to the LeoMar Preserve, managing the preserve for the betterment of California’s threatened and endangered species.

“Because of Leonard and Martha’s devotion to the Escondido Creek watershed, a piece of wild California will be preserved for all time, and will thrive, at the LeoMar Preserve,” said Ann Van Leer, the Conservancy’s executive director.

Visit www.escondidocreek.org to learn more about the Conservancy, to join the mission to enhance the lives of people and wildlife in the Escondido Creek watershed. More information about the Missing Lynx campaign can be found at www.escondidocreek.org/special-projects.

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