Adler Ranch Acquisition Petition

The Adler Ranch has a crucial firebreak and is for sale. The US Forest Service proposes to buy it through the Western Rivers Conservancy. Experience shows that such public ownership of the Adler Ranch would likely result in the loss of that fire break and thus increase the threat of wildfires to our community.


During the Basin Fire in 2008, the Adler Ranch was the location of 1.6 miles of firebreak that was used to stop it from burning through the Rocky Creek, Palo Colorado, and Garrapata watersheds.


One of the scoring criteria is whether there is support for the acquisition in the local community and/or from local elected officials. The Western Rivers Conservancy is working to collect statements of support for the acquisition.

The Coast Property Owners Association, Fire Safe Council For Monterey County, and others are opposed to the acquisition. They are working to explain why the acquisition would not meet the criteria, to oppose the acquisition. Your signature on the petition will help that effort by showing the acquisition does not have local support.

Mike Caplin built a one page website you can use to sign a petition that will be given to Congressman Panetta, the Forest Service, Senators Feinstein and Harris, and others.

For those of you who may want more information the petition has a lot of information in its “Whereas” section, including links to documents and video clips to back up what it says.

At the top of the web page is a link to skip to the bottom so you can go straight to signing the petition if you already feel well informed.

If you agree, please sign the petition and pass it along to others who share your concerns. Time is of the essence, so please take a few minutes to review the petition and sign it today.

38 thoughts on “Adler Ranch Acquisition Petition

  1. Kate- Thank you for spreading the word and helping to educate folks on why this particular acquisition is a potential loaded gun pointed at the Palo community. Butch

  2. I either submitted several petitions or none at all because after filling in all the required info, I clicked “Submit” and nothing seemed to happen to indicate it flew—perhaps it did.

  3. Thanks Counselor Kate

    Honestly I think the USFS has more than enough land that already it is totally incapable of taking care of due to budget cuts and indifference of the Department of Agriculture towards the value of public land for public use instead of being sold off for private profit. Maintenance of the forest and its trails is at the lowest level ever (to be fair the problem is not only due to bureaucracy but also to climate change, overuse, visitor fires and so on) I always had great respect for and good relations with the people working locally in Big Sur for the USFS, but further up the feeding chain it is today a totally different Kettle of Bureaucrats. Maybe a private owner or a preservation/conservation group would make it into a reserve of some sort with limited access to Grade One Visitors. I am not a big fan of petitions but I will give Jimmy a call once I have analyzed the information you have presented. As I mentioned before I knew his dad Leon pretty well and knew Sam Farr whose office I called for help insuring Tassajara (just inside the eastern border of the Big Sur Nation) was adequately protected during the last fire…

  4. On the other hand, Adler Ranch under public ownership would be a sure thing, as opposed to the uncertainty of some as yet-unknown private buyer. Provisions could be made to ensure the maintenance (or at least existence) of the Mescal Ridge/Bixby Mountain fire break. The portion of the Big Box depicted on this map as “not used during Basin Fire” involves steep cliffs surrounding a narrow river gorge. It was likely left unopened because it’s nearly indefensible & with the Gallery Fire already burning up the coast, construction would have put hand crews at grave risk (most of it is impassable to dozers). Broad, grassy Bixby Mountain is a far superior natural barrier. This is a complex, nuanced argument & simply petitioning against transferring the ranch to public ownership misses the point; but don’t take my word for it, get out & visit the landscape for yourself.

  5. I support this petition. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. If you want a perfect recent example of how the political class/government neglects “public” lands at great cost in dollars and otherwise look no further than the post Soberanes Fire storms and Andrew Molera State Park. Debris flows are common but always greater after a fire. As debris built up in Molera on the Big Sur River there was no action on the part of those personnel paid and entrusted with overseeing the park. The build up dammed the river, re-routed it, and did tremendous damage to the camp area and more. The park was then closed for months and the cost of restoration work ran into six figures. In a local community on private land in contrast, the vigilant interested parties (private owners) simply removed the growing pile of tree limbs and debris at two bridges on a creek. A road, pedestrian, and vehicle bridge were spared. The same is true for fire protection efforts on land under government control. If you have spent any time in the Ventana 40 years ago and go back there today you can see the total neglect. These state, county, and federal entities do little or no work in the back country and make it difficult for volunteers to do any. Sad really. I really wonder if it is not intentional. I am not sure they even want any of the true owners (public) to use it.

  6. I feel you are simply mislead or ill informed on this one. You may know the ground and the terrain, but you are not accurately reflecting the difficulty facing and with the USFS and the policies and views and lack of resources that are the reality here and throughout the nation.

  7. Kate, I gave BigSurLandTrust a buzz on this petition – we will see if they have any clout to make a genuine offer. I am unaware of its past projects and resident relations maybe someone could get me up to par on its reputation.

  8. Please, no, don’t do it. Do not give the Forest Service responsibility for this land. They are understaffed and underfunded, especially in Region 5. Their preference will be to allow it to return to its natural state. They fight fires, but they don’t prevent them. Ask the people in Montana and Wyoming, or consider my problem: As chief of a volunteer fire department, I pump from the creek to the truck and into 6 fire water storage tanks. This year the biologist told me to cease and desist – – after 55 years of doing it. Why? Despite the heavy winter and surplus water, I will harm the biota. Your fire break is anathema to their new policies. Life and property be damned.

  9. Without having to read through a pile of related literature, a simplistic background and next steps would be helpful. Why is the Alder Ranch for sale? Any thumbnail history on Alder’s and how the land was used…or not. Apparently no part of the property is pledged to any of the bigger pocket non-profits. Does the USFS have eminent domain rights in acquiring the property? Is the ranch in a family trust? A thumbnail on the slightly bigger picture would be helpful here. There are many who are interested…me for one, but need a “nutshell” on what is going on here. Thanks again to Kate for being at the helm when the storms come in.

  10. Connie, I just looked and don’t find your name on the list of those who have signed, so apparently not 3 but 0 submittals. If you can’t get the submit button to work after filling in all required fields (red asterisk) please post here with the kind of phone or computer you used and the web browser you used and any other details that come to mind so I can try to fix the problem. Thank you for trying. Fortunately, no other reports like yours so far.

  11. Karl, Axel Adler lived on the ranch in a small cabin half the year for decades. When he died his daughter lived there for some time but left. The ranch has been on the market for many years. Here is a Carmel Pine Cone story on the ranch when asking price was $15 M. I believe the price is now somewhere between $5 and $6 M.

    An issue is that the Forest Service is tripped up by myriad federal laws and Forest Service policy when it tries to act to prepare for fires or fight them. Similar for state agencies (e.g., state parks has said its mission is not to help protect communities near its land, and then there is CEQA etc., etc., result, Soberanes Fire). So, private ownership is left as the best option with the least roadblocks to preparing for wildfires and responding to them on this land that is the location of the last firebreak to stop fires that start in the Los Padres NF from burning through the Palo Colorado area. Should not be so, but is. Thumbnail answer is really not possible. Look at the Whereas information including the video clips at and hopefully sign the petition. Over 140 characters, sorry.

  12. Thanks, Mike for trying to help Connie. She has been on the South Coast of Big Sur longer than I have, although she leaves occasionally to go teach for a year over seas.

  13. Mike K & Kate-
    The petition has a typo in the first paragraph: the ranch is erroneously called “Alder” whereas it appears that the correct name is “Adler.” Someone else commented here that they were confused as to which name is correct. The Pine Cone article called it “Adler” and that is probably correct. D before L in the alphabet could apply here as a reminder…..

  14. Thanks Mike. Very helpful…and a good enough start for me to go further. PS: Karl actually lives in Carmel.

  15. This post and those following it are a response to Ventanaphile’s comment of September 7. (Part 1)

    With regard to Ventanaphile’s suggestion that it would be OK for the Forest Service to buy the Adler Ranch if there were some agreement the Bixby Mountain Firebreak that crosses it would be maintained:

    Any such agreement would be illusory and effectively unenforceable. Who has the money to sue the Forest Service / United States to enforce an agreement if ignored? If someone had the money, how long would that take? What are the chances such a lawsuit would be successful?

    The Forest Service essentially agreed to maintain the Big Box Fuelbreak when it signed the Monterey County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), saying it expected that could be done within 3 years of 2010. I believe then District Ranger Sherry Tune was sincere when she agreed to that. The 3-year number came from her (an early draft said one year, which she would not agree to).

    However, we are now well past 2013 and the Forest Service is stalled in the middle of the National Environment Quality Act process (NEPA) on a fuelbreak that would not be effective as described in the CWPP even if completed, and NEPA and the fuelbreak may never be completed.

    The Whereas section of the petition at has a link to a video that shows inadequacy of the Forest Service’s current fuelbreak project (search the page for “computer modeling”).

    Those shortcomings (e.g., 150 foot maximum width fuelbreak in some of the same locations where the Forest Service planned 2,000 foot wide fuelbreaks in 2001) were designed by the Forest Service to mollify wilderness activists and attempt to avoid litigation, but would result in an ineffective fuelbreak in the event of fire.

  16. This post and those before and following it are a response to Ventanaphile’s comment of September 7. (Part 2)

    No agreement could tie the hands of Congress.

    Congress has expanded the Ventana Wilderness repeatedly from its original 98,000 acres to about 235,000 acres, including moving wilderness up to and over the historic Big Box Firebreak. Here is a link to a map showing that.

    That map does not show the 20 + mile fuelbreak along the eastern edge of the origional wilderness, that Congress moved wilderness over in 1978.

    In 2002 Congress moved wilderness up to and over 8 out of 10 Forest Service fuelbreak projects the Forest Service started the NEPA process on in 2001, all of which were out of wilderness in 2001.

    The purpose of those projects was to help protect lives and property in communities around the Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres NF.

    You can download the Forest Service’s NEPA scoping letter on those fuelbreak projects here

    The House of Representatives passed the 2002 wilderness bill without a hearing, passing it out of the House in one minute at 2 am in the morning, and did similar in the Senate.

    As a result, the Forest Service abandoned the 8 fuelbreak projects, one of which was on the Skinner to Post Summit portion of the Big Box, intended to help protect the Palo Colorado community.

    I call the 2002 wilderness additions malevolent wilderness, because they blocked life protecting fuelbreak projects.

    If the Adler Ranch were to become federal land no agreement could stop Congress from doing more mischief lobbied for by a wilderness group, which is how the 2002 wilderness happened.

    Recently, the Forest Service acquired Parrott Ranch property in the Cachagua area, through a deal with a group similar to the Western Rivers Conservancy. That land has ½ mile of the Big Box Firebreak on it, and is now shown as “new wilderness” on a Forest Service map. You can a marked up version of that map here.

    Even if the Adler Ranch were never designated wilderness, NEPA and other federal laws and Forest Service policy trip up the Forest Service when it tries to do work to prepare for wildfires.

    And then there is the lack of funding, lack of staff, etc. The Forest Service is currently well over $5 billion behind in deferred maintenance (page 4 of this report

  17. From Mike Caplin, part 3 and final comment, I think. WordPress thinks he is too verbose, so won’t let him post the following:

    This post and those before it are a response to Ventanaphile’s comment of September 7. (Part 3)

    Ventanaphile’s comment that use of that portion of the Big Box would have essentially been pointless because the Gallery Fire was burning north and would have burned the area anyway is also wrong.

    The Gallery Fire had already been stopped from burning north outside the Big Box Firebreak at the time the Forest Service allowed the Basin Fire to burn over the Skinner to Post Summit portion of the Big Box.

    If you doubt that the Forest Service allowed the Basin Fire to burn over the Big Box, watch this video clip

    Ventanaphile’s comments are some of the same misinformation VWA has been repeating for years, though it has been explained to its leadership how it is wrong.

    I used great restraint when writing the Whereas section of the petition avoiding going into VWA’s role in the current problems. However, if I see more of this kind of misinformation I expect I will feel the need to explain VWA’s role in detail, including documentation, to avoid people being mislead into not signing the petition by false information.

    Sorry Kate. I went over 140 characters again (our joke). Maybe someone will read it all, and if they do, will have a better understanding of the situation, and hopefully sign the petition at

  18. From the original John Saar Properties listing:
    “A very special opportunity has arisen in the offering of 1,199 acres in the Adler Ranch in Big Sur, California. Originally it was settled by Charles Bixby, his daughter and husband Charlie Gregg in 1875. Later it became the weekend get-a-way retreat for Axel Adler. He was allowed to use a portion of the property and spent a great deal of time there during the early 50’s. He later built a small cabin and as time went on he was able to save enough money to purchase his first piece of heaven. He so loved his special place that he continued to purchase more land as time went on increasing his holding to over 1,199 acres now called Adler Ranch or Rancho Aguila. I have been hiking in Big Sur for over 30 years and have owned a home there for 10 years. I have never experienced a more dramatic, awe inspiring place in my life. The Sound of Music in the Alps comes to mind. The property includes the water shed of the Little Sur River with meadows cascading over a thousand feet into a huge canyon with the power of the Grand Canyon and stunning mountain peaks jetting skyward. With Pico Blanco Mountain commanding the southern view and a bowl of jagged mountains at the head waters to the east. I have never seen a better opportunity to own a national treasure. The possibilities are endless, a private compound for your family, a development opportunity with 9 legal lots, a legacy property for your family or the preservation of a natural wonder.”

    Nine luxury homes for absentee owners or public land for generations of Americans to treasure and enjoy? Seems like a no-brainer.

  19. I can see why it would be a no-brainer for those who have no concern about the safety of people who live in the Palo Colorado community. But for thinking caring people who are informed on the issue, not so simple.

    For open-minded people reading this thread, take a look at the Whereas section of the petition website, and follow the links in it to read documents and watch video clips. Then join the other caring people who have signed the petition, who you can see here, and sign the petition here

    Despite the sales pitch from the realtor working to sell the property, my understanding is that currently the single parcel can have one home and maybe one small second unit, and that due to limits on the road easement no more than 5 homes could be built on the 1,200 acre ranch, if someone could survive the gauntlet of the rules in the Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan to divide the parcel.

    As for those who think there is a need for more public land in California, and less private land…

    About half of California is currently owned by local, state and federal government (almost a quarter of the state is owned by the Forest Service alone).

    After subtracting land owned by government, agribusiness, lumber companies, railroads, public utilities, I estimate only about 15% of the land in California is available for individuals to own and live on, and over one third of that land is in cities.

    So, for those who think Californians should have the option of living in a rural area, stop supporting those who think government should continue buying up land, especially where it would increase the threat of wildfires to rural communities.

  20. Okay, you and Ventanaphile have had your say, so I am cutting off any further comments, before the two of you turn this into your own personal debate forum. Thank you both for showing us both sides of this thorny issue.

  21. Kate,

    CPC: CC: ‘Neighbors say deal to turn ranch into parkland will increase wildfire risk” See Parkland..

  22. Private ownership does nothing to provide a firebreak over bixby mountain.
    The best option for a firebreak is county parks. They have the money to buy stuff and the money and personnel to maintain stuff. Look at Garland park and its wide jeep-road style “trails”.
    Private ownership virtually guarantees no permanent firebreak over bixby mountain.. or if I am wrong please provide examples of how this has worked elsewhere on the big sur coast. Related to the FS, there are many permanent firebreaks in the Santa Barbara area such as over Little Pine Mountain, or along the ridgeline north of Sysquoc creek. Is there any evidence that private ownership could be obliged to have a permanent fire break ?

  23. Maybe Caplin can advise us on how he would feel about the government requiring him to put a permanent firebreak through his property.

  24. One only need to look east from lighthouse flats over Hill Ranch to see private property with maintained fuel breaks and black line clearance on the fence lines.

  25. Considering that Mike Caplin’s acreage is minimal, and that the fire burned through his place and took his house last summer, your question/suggestion shows a callous lack of thought or empathy re Mike Caplin or others who lost their homes. For what? To support even MORE government ownership of land? The USFS cannot even patrol sufficiently down here on the South Coast, nevermind enforce campfire bans, illegal shooting activity, etc. due to lack of manpower, which is due to lack of funds. Santa Barbara is different territory, different terrain, and a different population with wealth behind it. Butch has given you your answer re private property and fuel breaks. The Hill Ranch has ALWAYS done that in my memory, which is only about 32 years.

  26. Reply to bigsuralladin. You ask for examples of where a permanent firebreak has been maintained on private land. First, some clarity on the difference between firebreaks and fuelbreaks. Firebreaks are essentially a dirt road, where all vegetation has been removed down to bare soil. Fuelbreaks are typically much wider, where vegetation has been reduced substantially but not completely, to make the area safe for a firebreak to be installed and for firefighters to work, and if properly constructed and designed, sufficient to stop the spread of fire without further action. The Forest Service sees construction of firebreaks as a tactical action to be done during a wildfire, and fuelbreaks as strategic actions to be done before a wildfire.

    Forest Service ownership of land has interfered with both construction of fuelbreaks before fires, and with opening and use of firebreaks during fires.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.