One of the Humane Stewardship Alliance’s newest members is the 264-acre Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve in Ojai, California. A bit northwest of LA and Lake Casitas, Ojai is nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Topatopa Mountains. This hidden gem includes both exotic gardens and extensive natural habitat that is permanently preserved to help wildlife survive and thrive.
John Taft founded both the Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve and the Conservation Endowment Fund, which serves as steward for the property, in 1981. His love for nature and dedication to preserving wildlife and habitat led him to purchase the land and establish the CEF. Over the four decades since, he has poured extensive love, care, planning and resources into creating and maintaining the gardens and ensuring the protection of the natural habitat for wildlife. Taft Gardens’ mission is threefold: preservation, exploration and education relating to the land and wildlife of the Santa Ana Canyon.
Taft’s granddaughter, Jaide Whitman, is now president and CEO of both the CEF and Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve. Whitman explains that Taft Gardens is not a traditional botanical garden, as access to it is purposefully limited to preserve the property as a unique experience, and one that is designed to instill a sense of the importance of protecting wildlife and habitat. New and forthcoming initiatives include a native plant garden, a self-guided meditation walk and a program for honoring a loved one through dedicating a plant, tree, or rock and/or exhibiting an honorary work of art. Throughout the year, Taft Gardens offers natural history walks, nature immersion walks, solstice celebrations and other events.
With its long history of living peacefully and compatibly with wildlife, the Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve is a natural fit for the Humane Stewardship Alliance. Through their example, others may see the many benefits that thoughtful, wildlife-friendly management of land brings to both people and wildlife.
- Cary Smith