In an effort to preserve one of the nation's last stands of Tecate cypress trees, the Nature Conservancy purchased 180 acres of land next to the Cleveland National Forest, just east of El Cajon, officials said Wednesday.
Nationwide there are only four known groves of the Tecate cypress, which date from the days of mastodons and saber-toothed tigers.
Officials with the San Francisco-based conservation group purchased the land on Guatay Mountain for $510,000. The land will be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service, officials said.
"This is one of the most important steps we could have taken to preserve the cypress in the area," said Tom White, a Cleveland National Forest vegetation management specialist, in a statement released Wednesday.
"The new acquisition will greatly enhance our ability to manage the cypress stands and to consider establishing a research natural area on the site, which, in the past, wasn't warranted because of landownership patterns in the area."