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Did You Know? Rancho's Secret Sanctuary
by: Debbie L. Sklar
Starr Ranch boasts a myriad of plants and wildlife.
Starr Ranch boasts a myriad of plants and wildlife.

No need to go exploring across the world, the Starr Ranch Sanctuary in Orange County is like an oasis in your own backyard.

If you haven’t heard of Starr Ranch, it specializes in conservation and land management. Located on 4,0000 acres of preserve owned and operated by the National Audubon Society, Starr Ranch is situated in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains bordered by the Cleveland National Forest on the north and east, the Ronald W. Caspers Regional Park on the south and the developments of Dove Canyon and Coto de Caza on the west. Rancho Santa Margarita is 3 miles northwest of the Sanctuary, and the City of San Juan Capistrano is 10 miles to the southwest.

“… We seek to instill a love of nature through education programs that involve people of all ages in wildlife research and to provide a model of rigorous, sustainable land management through applied research,” says its extensive Web site.

There is no hunting, biking, ATVs or horseback riding allowed on the property which is named after Eugene Starr an Arizona millionaire who owned the land before 3,900 acres were left to the National Audubon Society by Starr’s wife. The Society acquired that land thanks to a Gift Deed in 1973, Starr died in 1963 and his wife 3 years later.

In addition to being a spectacularly beautiful place to visit, the Starr Ranch offers all kinds of programs, workshops, and classes for those who want to get closer to their environment. There is a bird observatory, and you can even try your hand as a wildlife biologist, and so much more.

The land was once home to a Native American Indian camp, pastures to a famous Don and homestead to pioneers amongst others. While the Sanctuary is open to the public it is only in a limited capacity in an effort to preserve its integrity as a scientific research station. Look for more programs and public access in the near future.

Debbie L. Sklar is a 20+year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. Sklar may be reached via e-mail at

What do you think? Leave your comment here.

Comment by Dick Oakley 1/28/2010 4:11:00 PM

I take issue with your "lead in" for this story. RSM does NOT have smog and traffic congestion is minimal.

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