SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. _ The conservation-minded scored some historic victories in land preservation in San Luis Obispo County this year, but had their share of missed opportunities and nagging delays as well.
The largest and most publicized of all the preservation efforts came just 17 days into the year when outgoing President Bill Clinton declared the 309-square-mile Carrizo Plain to be a national monument.
The move bans oil, gas and real estate development in much of the southeastern portion of the county. The executive order came only after Congress twice let the designation founder and after county supervisors Mike Ryan and Harry Ovitt failed to get support for reducing the monument size by 99 percent.
Next door to the monument, the Nature Conservancy completed purchase of 15,000 acres called the South Chimineas Ranch.
Both the monument and Chimineas are key habitat for various rare or endangered wildlife species, and the preserves create a protective corridor linking the area with Los Padres National Forest.
The most high-profile preservation proposal in the county involved Hearst Ranch, where the family is negotiating with two conservation groups. It hopes to establish an agricultural easement on 98 percent of the ranch's 83,000 acres in exchange for allowing some kind of development on the remaining land.
The Nature Conservancy, which is one of the two groups in negotiations with Hearst, purchased the southern half of the 30,000-acre Chimineas Ranch …