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The largest preserve in the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District just got a little bigger, with the purchase of 42 acres in the Mount Umunhum area of the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, district officials said.

The property, purchased for $168,000, is located on slopes above Soda Spring Canyon and is surrounded by the Sierra Azul Preserve on three sides with private property to the south, according to the district.

The newly acquired acreage expands the preserve to nearly 19,344 acres and protects a greenbelt of connected habitat and wildlife corridors.

The large preserve, south of Los Gatos and San Jose, encompasses much of the Sierra Azul range and its foothills in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

“Sierra Azul is in many ways a crown jewel — our largest preserve at more than 19,300 acres, our highest point at Mount Umunhum and, certainly, one of our most rugged and beautiful.”

Ana Maria Ruiz, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

Since 1972, the district has protected more than 65,000 acres of open space, General Manager Ana Maria Ruiz said.

“And Sierra Azul is in many ways a crown jewel — our largest preserve at more than 19,300 acres, our highest point at Mount Umunhum and, certainly, one of our most rugged and beautiful,” she said.

The new area is dominated by California bay laurel forest, and provides habitat for several animal species, including deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions, along with a wide variety of birds, small mammals, including dusky-footed woodrats and many other resident and migratory species.

The property is not accessible by existing roads, has no improvements or utilities and is currently closed to public access.

It falls within the Guadalupe Creek and Upper Los Gatos Creek watersheds and includes an intermittent tributary of Soda Springs Creek, which flows directly into the Lexington Reservoir.