As Rare as a Rainforest


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Yours to Protect

I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Ranch in regards to its ‘value for science and education’. I do not believe that there is another National Natural Landmark (NNL) site in all of the United States that places such a wealth of…features as close to such a major population center, thereby providing abundant opportunities for K-12 field trips, college student visits, graduate student and professional research, and for the general outdoor-oriented public to learn the lessons of the Earth.– Richard Behl, Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
California State University, Long Beach

Nearly 40,000 acres of open space on the historic Irvine Ranch have been designated a Natural Landmark by both the State of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior. This honor recognizes the exceptional value of these lands to California and the entire nation. This land is part of the 50,000 acres of permanently protected land preserved on the historic Irvine Ranch.

The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks contain important natural habitats and unusual geological formations. The landscape is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including eagles, badgers, mountain lions, Tecate cypress trees, and many rare species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants. Scientists have identified this region as one of the world’s biodiversity “hot spots” — an area with large concentrations of different species.

Becoming a Landmark

Both Natural Landmark designations followed a rigorous, objective scientific evaluation. The evaluation considered the diversity and rarity of the area’s biological, geological and paleontological features; its natural communities; the quality of its habitats and the presence of rare, threatened or endangered species – as well as the land’s value for science and education.

The open space throughout the Natural Landmarks contains rock formations and fossils that reveal a sequence of events chronicling earth’s history dating back nearly 80 million years. This landscape also contains large swaths of coastal sage scrub, a rare habitat found only in coastal Southern California and northern Baja California. The combination of unusual geological and rare biological characteristics is rare even among Natural Landmarks.

The land is protected and maintained by a group of cooperating landowners and managers including the County of Orange, the City of Irvine, the Irvine Company, the City of Newport Beach, and California State Parks. The landscape represents one of the few places in Southern California where habitats have been preserved stretching from the mountains to the sea.

For more information on the National Natural Landmarks program, administered by the National Park Service, click here. The California Natural Landmarks program is overseen by California State Parks.