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Sale Links 2 Pristine Coastal Mountain Sites

Environment: Conservationists purchase a 417-acre portion of Tuna Canyon. Along with land acquired last year, it will be preserved as a wilderness area.

January 31, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A conservation group has acquired 417 acres in Tuna Canyon between Malibu and Topanga canyons, linking two large pieces of land set aside last year to protect a stretch of undeveloped landscape above Pacific Coast Highway.

"It's a perfect example of a Southern California canyon in its pristine state," said Garrie Mar of the Mountains Restoration Trust, which completed the deal last week.

The land connects 1,659 acres purchased by the state last year to extend Topanga State Park to the ocean and 1,256 acres acquired in December by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

"It's a really strategic wedge piece between the two properties," said Rorie Skei, acting deputy director of the conservancy.

The three parcels, covered with coastal scrub and chaparral, constitute a rare swath of wilderness in Southern California. The land has been highly coveted by conservationists.

Trust staffers said they will work with the state and the conservancy to protect wildlife habitats and explore recreational uses for the land.

They hope to connect the areas with a nature trail and build links to the Backbone Trail, which runs 60 miles from Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades to Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County.

Officials at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy have said they plan to keep the land as open space, with the exception of a camp for students from low-income neighborhoods to enjoy the wilderness.

The trust acquired the land, valued at $13 million, from John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell Hair Care Systems, said Mountains Restoration Trust President Steve Harris.

DeJoria, who bought the property to develop it, sold a portion of the land for about $1.4 million and donated the rest. Under terms of the sale, the land must be kept as open space, except for some nature trails and necessary maintenance buildings, said real estate agent Matthew Rodman, who brokered the deal.

DeJoria will be able to write off the deal as a charitable donation.

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