Public Lands Overview

Often described as America’s best idea, public lands are OUR lands. In so many ways, they profoundly link us to the natural world and one another, while enhancing our physical, spiritual and mental health -- and happiness. The Central Coast of California is surrounded by remarkable public lands to enjoy, explore, and appreciate. Each of us has an important ownership stake in our public land heritage.

All levels of our government – national, state, county and city – manage our public lands. This website includes representative examples of each type of public lands, including: National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management Monuments, California State Parks, California State Ecological Preserves, and County and City parks and Open Spaces.

The federal government manages over 640 million acres of land in the US, which is 28% of the total US land base. In California, the percentage of federally owned public land is over 45%. While smaller in acreage, the State of California, the County of Santa Barbara, the City of Santa Barbara, the City of Goleta, Isla Vista, and other local governments manage outstanding public lands that are widely used and relished.

Each type of public land has its own history, laws, and management practices. For my UCSB class, I have my students read: America’s Public Lands by Randall Wilson, which I highly recommend because it thoughtfully explores our national public land heritage.

These are our lands to experience and enjoy!

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For State, county and city parks, here is some additional information

1) Isla Vista Parks and Open Spaces offer over 25 parks, open spaces and beach access points.

2) Goleta Parks and Open Spaces provide over 20 parks and open spaces.

3) City of Santa Barbara manages Parks, Beaches, Community Gardens, and more as shown on this Interactive Park Map.

4) County of Santa Barbara Parks offer over 80 day use parks, open spaces, beach areas and 2 camping parks

5) California’s State Parks system consist of over 280 special places, including State Beaches, State Historic Parks, State Recreation Areas, State Natural Reserves, State Parks and Wilderness Areas.

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