This IBA refers to the intact riparian habitat from Hwy. 101 (vic. Buellton) west through the broad agricultural lands west of Lompoc. The habitat of this IBA, bottomland riparian woodland along an unchannelized stream, is dominated by dense willows and scattered cottonwoods. This area supports one of the most significant and little-studied riparian systems in central California, and one of the two best examples of lowland riparian habitat in Santa Barbara County (the other being the upper Santa Ynez River to the east). The habitat east of Buellton (Santa Ynez Valley), while restorable, is patchy and intensively grazed/farmed to Lake Cachuma. The coastal zone, including the mouth of the Santa Ynez River, is treated as the Vandenberg Air Force Base IBA.

Ornithological Summary

The lower Santa Ynez River supports a large, poorly-known population of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers, with the largest colony located about five miles west of Buellton. Least Bell's Vireo breed the length of the river as well, and even Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been recorded recently in summer along Sweeny Rd. (July 2000, DC), which follows the north side of the river east of Lompoc. Golden Eagle is a regular sight in summer, and probably breeds in the hills to the south (Lehman 1994). Purple Martin have maintained one of their southernmost colonies in massive Western Sycamores along a nearby tributary of the Santa Ynez, Nojoqui Creek, (within Nojoqui Falls County Park, five miles south of Buellton), and may eventually colonize this IBA. The oak savannah on either side of the river supports grassland birds, including wintering raptors (esp. Ferruginous Hawk). Tricolored Blackbirds breed in scattered farm ponds, and Yellow-billed Magpie is found in the eastern portion of this IBA near the southern edge of its global range.

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Conservation Issues

The lower Santa Ynez River flows entirely through private lands, with virtually no guidelines or mandates on how the river should be managed for conservation. The conversion of ranches from low-density cattle grazing to vineyards and/or housing developments continues unabated, and it is likely that the next decade or so will see a dramatic loss of open space in the lower Santa Ynez watershed. Conservation easements and acquisitions could forestall the transformation of this unique lowland riparian system.

Ownership

The lower Santa Ynez River flows entirely through private lands.

Habitat

The habitat of this IBA, bottomland riparian woodland along an unchannelized stream, is dominated by dense willows and scattered cottonwoods. This area supports one of the most significant and little-studied riparian systems in central California, and one of the two best examples of lowland riparian habitat in Santa Barbara County (the other being the upper Santa Ynez River to the east). The habitat east of Buellton (Santa Ynez Valley), while restorable, is patchy and intensively grazed/farmed to Lake Cachuma.

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