Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve


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 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 property is owned by the State Lands Commission and leased to 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.

For more information, view the Burton Mesa ER Slide Presentation (PDF), FAQs, or call the South Coast Region San Diego office at (858) 467-4201.

Recreational Opportunities

Wildlife Viewing

Activities: wildlife viewing

Please note that motorized vehicles, bicycles and horses are prohibited at all times on the property. For a complete list of permitted activities, please see the trail signage in the presentation above.

The public is encouraged to visit and explore the 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.

Access for pedestrians and hikers is from sunrise to sunset. Users can walk or hike on designated trails, bring dogs as long as they are retained on a leash of less than 10 feet and view wildlife at a safe distance. Activities that could have a detrimental effect on the land are horseback riding, mountain biking and the flying of small aircraft – all of which are prohibited.

NOTE: Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with all regulations pertaining to the use of Department lands.

Refer to the Public Uses on State and Federal Lands section of the Waterfowl, Upland Game, and Public Use Regulations (PDF) booklet for both statewide and property-specific regulations.

no drones icon
You may not operate a drone on CDFW Lands without a Special Use Permit.

Area History

Vandenberg Air Force Base, which shares the western boundary of the reserve, started operation in 1941 as an armor and infantry training camp. The establishment of the camp curtailed the agricultural activities in this area, and suburban communities were constructed adjacent to the property. Beginning in 1991, the property was acquired because of the high value of its environmentally sensitive resources, particularly the rich botanical diversity of the Burton Mesa Chaparral habitat. In 2004, the property was designated as an ecological reserve by the Fish and Game Commission.

Rare Plants

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.

Related Documents

Map of Burton Masa ER - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


South Coast Region (Region 5)

Santa Barbara County

Highway 1 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.

CDFW Lands Viewer