Restoration & Conservation

The Estuary Program works to protect important natural areas within and around the estuary and restores areas that have been degraded.

Our projects support naturally occurring plants and animals, which are those that are best adapted to our climate and soil and are present due to natural processes. Healthy habitats provide homes to many plants and animals, protect water quality in the estuary, and preserve the scenic beauty and recreational opportunities that residents and visitors love.




Partners are essential to our work.


The Estuary Program partners with landowners to implement restoration and conservation projects in the Morro Bay watershed. We have worked with California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), Camp San Luis Obispo (Camp SLO), and many other organizations and private landowners.

Partnering with the Estuary Program on projects has proven to be extremely beneficial to the university’s cattle operation and range-improvement practices. We are very fortunate to be located in this watershed and be able to take advantage of their cost-share programs.

Aaron Lazanoff

Beef Operations Manager, Cal Poly




Restoring lands to their wild ways.


The Estuary Program works with many partners in our community to protect the estuary and the lands that surround it. To enhance water and habitat quality, we have completed a range of projects with many partners in our community. These projects include:

  • conserving and storing water for use during dry seasons
  • removing barriers to allow fish to move up and down local streams
  • working with landowners to install fences to limit cattle use of streambeds for erosion prevention
  • restoring and replanting floodplains and other areas
  • improving dirt roads to reduce the amount of sediment that ends up in the estuary
  • removing invasive plant and animal species in order to benefit native species




Conserving precious assets to the community.


This includes purchasing, acquiring, and easing land with partners for protection and management in key habitat areas.


  • Conservation easements, one tool for protecting lands, are agreements with willing landowners to limit future land uses to protect its value as habitat.


A recent example of this in the watershed is a conservation easement between the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County and Vintage Organics. This 227-acre farm in the Los Osos Valley produces organic flowers, vegetables and seed along with some livestock. The agreement conserves this property in perpetuity as farmland and oak woodland and protects local water resources into nearby Los Osos Creek.

Another local ranch, the Maino property is set aside to protect 1,860 acres of woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, and serpentine outcroppings interlaced by streams and springs in the lower Chorro Valley. Ranching and farming continues with “best management practices” according to management plans by owners, limiting future development.


  • A land acquisition is another tool for protecting habitat areas. In this agreement, the property given or sold to an entity that will ensure healthy lands remain or are restored to their natural progression. Below are just a few examples of key acquisitions in our watershed:


Hollister Peak Ranch is acquired for habitat protection and restoration, sediment capture. This 580-acre section, previously slated for development, becomes Chorro Creek Ecological Reserve.

A popular place for sunsets, dog-walking, and shoreline strolls is at the end of Butte Drive in Los Osos. This protected 17.8-acre property contains important dune and wetland area along the shore.

Providing a significant link in the Los Osos greenbelt for native plants and animals to flourish, a 42-acre site acquisition prevents future development in Los Osos and the Morro Bay estuary after once being slated for development of a hotel.

82-acres of previous ranch land is acquired to reduce erosion, improve water flow, and restore habitat. Once restored, the area could provide habitat for tidewater goby, steelhead, and California red-legged frogs, all of which are either threatened or endangered.


In our watershed, there are have been a variety of land acquisitions and conservation easements, totaling about 3,000 acres, that benefit our community purchased or managed by partners of the Estuary Program with funding or project assistance by the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. Partners include the Trust for Public Land, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo, Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District, the Nature Conservancy, public entities such as California State Parks and the US Forest Service, and others.


Check out a few more of our recent restoration and conservation projects below. Please contact our Restoration Program Manager, Carolyn Geraghty, if you are interested in learning more.