A Network for Voluntary Conservation

The Pajaro River watershed includes productive farms and ranches, rich natural areas, and culturally significant places, all at the intersection of expanding communities and growing infrastructure networks. While complex, this landscape also holds great opportunity for both nature conservation and productive agriculture, due to the many ways in which these places and stakeholders overlap.

The Pajaro Compass supports a committed group of partners who champion these many values of the Pajaro River watershed for people and nature and, through coordinated action, ensure that agricultural and open space lands support these values in balance with new opportunities.

Above all, the Pajaro Compass provides a dynamic gateway for landowners and managers, public agencies, conservation organizations, funders, and elected officials to learn, connect, and engage in efforts to maintain a healthy and productive Pajaro River watershed.

Pajaro River Watershed

The Pajaro River watershed is an area of approximately 1,300 square miles, and includes portions of three mountain ranges: Santa Cruz, Gabilan and Diablo. The Pajaro River watershed’s rivers, tributaries, and creeks ultimately drain into Monterey Bay. Geologically complex, the Pajaro River watershed straddles the Pacific and North American Plates, bisected by the active San Andreas Fault. Lying within four counties—Santa Clara and Santa Cruz in the north, and San Benito and Monterey in the south—the region includes the cities of Gilroy, Watsonville, and Hollister and a population of approximately 140,000 people.

Pajaro River Watershed

Watershed Boundry
Public and Private Protected Lands

Conservation Goals

The Pajaro Compass collectively supports six conservation goals for the Pajaro River watershed. The six Pajaro Compass Conservation Goals are:

Water Resources

To conserve groundwater and surface water resources (including rivers, ponds, wetlands, and floodplains), thereby ensuring the long-term sustained benefits of these natural resources to local communities, economies, agriculture, and nature.


To protect, steward, and restore natural communities and species, thereby ensuring the long-term health and resilience of the environment and preserving the area’s unique natural heritage.


To support and enhance the economic productivity and environmental health of farms and ranches and their continued use for agricultural production.

Carbon and Soil Health

To conserve and manage soils to enhance biological diversity and co-benefits including carbon storage, water infiltration and holding capacity, agricultural production, and positive influence on human health.


To ensure the long-term protection and management of a regional network of parks and open space lands, and to connect residents and visitors to nature- and agriculture-based recreation and learning opportunities.


To engage with community members, identify common values related to conservation, invite participation, and together support projects, actions, and decisions that reflect community investment in place to ensure long-term health and prosperity.