Cooperatove Conservation Project

The Irvine Ranch Land Reserve

Private Ranch Serves Public Conservation Interests

Location: Far West Region: California

Project Summary: The Irvine Company and partners created a 50,000 acre urban reserve for education, recreation, and conservation, a model for sustainable development.
Photo Not Available
A hiker explores a trail at Irvine Ranch Preserve. PHOTO BY STEVEN FRANCIS
Resource Challenge

Master planning on the Irvine Ranch in Orange County, CA has resulted in the permanent protection of 50,000 acres of parks, wilderness and greenways. Long term, this asset must be managed for not only the needs of residents (recreation, public access, aesthetics) but for the preservation and stewardship of the globally significant natural resources found there.

The concept of the Land Reserve is to conserve and provide sustainable, compatible visitor access to this large system of natural areas within a 30 minute drive of 4 million people. The Reserve is an essential part of wildland conservation in the region and also contributes to a local Habitat Conservation Plan for the protection of 60 species. Through the vision and philanthropy of the private sector, a collaborative public/private stewardship program is being created to properly plan and manage the Reserve on a sustainable basis. Both public and private planners and managers are researching, adapting and integrating best resource and visitor management practices on a scale rarely seen under a private initiative.

Examples of Key Partners

The Irvine Company, Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust, The Nature Conservancy, California Department of Parks and Recreation, County of Orange, City of Irvine, USDI National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and other local non-profit conservation organizations, city governments, community stakeholders and landowners.

Results and Accomplishments

By working together, the landowners and the Reserve’s Trust managers, led by The Irvine Company and The Nature Conservancy, have produced some notable achievements, including:

• Performed extensive resource inventories and monitoring projects.

• Removed exotic plants on more than 5,000 acres. 

• Developed ecologically-based fire management protocols for local fire agencies.

• Trained naturalists at a local community college, graduating more than 1,000 expert volunteers to help manage the Reserve.

• Developed long-term programs to protect regionally important habitats with high biological value.

• Removed invasive wildlife species.

• Created a GIS environmental database to assist land managers.

• Held Land Managers Forums for training and information sharing.

• Created a 193-member volunteer docent corps which helped open more than 45 miles of public trails.

• Constructed staging areas and trailheads to facilitate public access.

• Coordinated nature programs with local schools, reaching more than 11,000 students.

• Collaborated on scientific and academic research with several universities and colleges, using the Reserve as a living laboratory.


A privately-led stewardship initiative for landscape-level conservation in an urban environment.

Project Contact
Mike O’Connell
Executive Director
Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust



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