Coveted oceanfront land in Ventura County will become a nature preserve to protect an endangered species, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The San Diego River is currently home to a large population of the Northern elephant seal—a marine mammal that is protected in its territory and protected by a strict seal hunt near its habitat.
If the land is sold, the Northern elephant seal will remain on a small portion of the San Diego River, according to the Times.
The county will buy the land from a private business and donate it to the Nature Conservancy as a Nature Center.
The Nature Conservancy has purchased more than 200 acres of land in California to create a Nature Center, according to the Times.
“Now this parcel in Ventura County is poised to be a Nature Center for the world’s largest population of one of the most critically endangered marine creatures on the planet,” said Peter Gleeson, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy.
“For decades, we’ve been trying to work with the county and private businesses to buy these parcels and preserve them, but in recent years we’ve found more examples of how this is the right thing to do,” Gleeson said. “We hope to inspire a new generation of young leaders to take on this mission and to take this mission to the next level.”
The Nature Conservancy will start the process of designing the land to open it “to the public as a nature center,” said Gleeson.
The Northern elephant seal is currently in the San Diego River because it resides there during an annual hunt.
Elephant seals use the San Diego River to travel to and from their breeding grounds, according to the Times.
“They’re not hunting the seal, but the seal is protecting the seal,” said Gleeson. “Seal are great ambassadors for the wildlife and habitat we all share.”
The Northern elephant seal is facing extinction in the wild because of hunting, habitat loss, competition for resources and disease. The species currently inhabits about 18 to 24 percent of its historical range.
The elephant seal is one of the most highly trafficked marine mammals, and the seal hunt is the main source of income for the San Diego River, according to the Times.
“If these seals are not going to be left behind, then how else are we going to protect our ocean