Bommer Canyon
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California’s first natural landmark

Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., left, leads Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others through Bommer Canyon, part of a nearly 40,000-acre swath of Orange County open space that has been designated as the first California Natural Landmark. Photos (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Children from Bonita Canyon Elementary School in Irvine walk through Bommer Canyon to attend the announcement ceremony — timed to coincide with Earth Day — designating the historic Irvine Ranch land as the first California Natural Landmark. To make the statewide list, land must be mostly undisturbed and have such biological and geological significance that it could have been preserved as a state or national park. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Bommer Canyon, city-owned open space west of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park near the 73 toll road, is part of the acreage deemed so ecologically valuable by state officials that it has been designated a California Natural Landmark. The rolling landscape features canyons filled with coastal sage scrub, grasslands and oak woodlands. One expanse is near the coast, including Crystal Cove State Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park; the other is in the lower reaches of the Santa Ana Mountains, including the Limestone Canyon and Weir Canyon wilderness areas. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
“Only in California can you see a 40,000-acre natural landmark right in the middle of one of the nation’s most vibrant and economically important urban areas,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says of the land, which mostly surrounds Irvine. The governor was accompanied by a smattering of state and local officials, along with Scouts and elementary school students. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A cyclist pedals up Bommer Canyon Road. The designation of the Orange County acreage as a California Natural Landmark does not require that it be permanently protected or open to the public, but officials hope the attention it brings will encourage long-term preservation. “It’s an incremental step that hopefully softens up landowners and moves them toward permanent protection,” says Glenn Olson, executive director of Audubon California, which co-sponsored the bill to create the program. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)