When students of UCSB brag about going to school in one of the most beautiful places, they aren’t alone in thinking so.

On Monday, Scenic America recognized the Gaviota Coast as one of 10 “Last Chance Landscapes” in the nation. Competing against approximately 52 applicants from around the U.S., the Gaviota Coast, which runs the length of Santa Barbara County, was one of two sites chosen in California.

Scenic America is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the country’s natural beauty. Scenic America President Meg Maguire said the landscapes competition is as much about recognizing scenic quality as protecting that quality.

“We selected places that had both a pending threat and a potential solution,” Maguire said. “The places had to have some kind of threat of development that would change the character of the place. The Gaviota Coast was a great example of this.”

The 76-mile Gaviota Coast is the largest stretch of undeveloped coastline still remaining in Southern California. It is also the only coastal Mediterranean ecosystem in North America, and it is home to a variety of endangered wildlife, including the monarch butterfly, steelhead trout and the flycatcher bird .

“We are one of the last best havens for much wildlife,” Gaviota Coast Conservancy President Mike Lunsford said. “In order for population of wildlife to continue, there have to be migration corridors without human interruption. We have that kind of connection here.”

Population growth and the steady increase in land values on the coastline are increasingly threatening the area. Some large development companies are proposing major projects such as golf courses and residential development on the Gaviota Coast. Currently, the county’s agricultural zoning policies are the only hindrance to development. However, those policies are susceptible to political change and are open to interpretation, making development more likely, Lunsford said.

This “Last Chance Landscapes” recognition will help bring attention – and potential grant funding – to the area’s coastline. Currently, the Conservancy is trying to use public grant money to acquire the land and prevent it from being developed. So far, however, it does not have enough money. One 15,020-acre property is on the market for $45 million.