California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve - Santa Barbara County

Location: Highway 1 in Santa Barbara County between Vandenberg Air Force Base to the west, Freeport-McMoran Oil & Gas LLC oil fields to the north, and the La Purisima Mission State Park to the south.

Map: Directional Map (PDF)    Slide Presentation (PDF)

PLEASE NOTE: motorized vehicles, bicycles and horses are prohibited at all times on the reserve.

Visitor use of ecological reserves is also subject to subsections 630(a) and (b) and any other sections of Title 14, CCR that may apply. Visitors to CDFW lands are responsible for knowing and following all applicable regulations.

PLEASE NOTE: Area regulations are subject to change. Special restrictions on recreational uses are listed in the current year's issue of 2014-2015 California Waterfowl, Upland Game and Lands Regulations Booklet (PDF) available at CDFW offices and places where licenses are sold.

Description: Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve consists of 5,368 acres between Purisima Hills and Santa Ynez Mountains and encompasses one of the last significant stands of maritime chaparral in the state.

The property is owned by the State Lands Commission and leased to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for management, operation and maintenance. In 2004, the Fish and Game Commission approved the formal designation of “ecological reserve” for this area, which granted special protection to the rare, threatened and endangered plant species.

The Central Maritime Chaparral community is dominated by ceanothus, manzanita, chamise, California coffeeberry, black sage, Coast live oak and coastal scrub species.

Badgers, bobcats, deer, mountain lions, packrats, snakes, and a variety of avian species may also be observed.

The public is encouraged to visit and explore the ecological reserve. However, it is important that we all use the reserve respectfully to help preserve this sensitive environment. It is the visitor’s responsibility to understand and follow the rules posted at the trail heads and stay in designated areas.

Visitors can view this unique habitat up close, including several plant species listed below that are found nowhere else in the world.

  • Vandenberg Monkeyflower (Diplacus vandenbergensis) – An annual plant that grows in sandy soil and produces a brilliant yellow wildflower that's indigenous to Lompoc. The presence of contiguous chaparral habitat is important because it provides a perfect environment for seed dispersal and establishment of new plants.
  • Purisima manzanita (Arctostaphylos purissima) - Bright green shiny leaves and smooth, burgundy red, seasonal peeling bark.  Primary threat is direct removal of plants and fragmentation of natural populations.
  • Shagbark manzanita (Arctostaphylos rudis) – Evergreen shrub that reaches 2 meters in height and has grayish bark with a reddish tinge, but does not peel. Primary threat is direct removal of plants and fragmentation of natural populations.
  • Lompoc ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus var. fascicularis) - Evergreen glossy leaves and can only reproduce by seed.  Flowers in the winter and are white to lavender to pale blue.

WLB 10-2014