Land baron and occassional movie director James Cameron is at the center of an effort by several groups in California to secure 703 acres of largely undeveloped land near Pepperdine University. The idea is to preserve the large tracts of wilderness, much of it owned by the "Avatar" director and vital to several species, as a public conservation corridor. The $12M price tag is being funded with $4.5M by the Wildlife Conservation Board, $5.265M from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and an expected $1.5M from the state Coastal Conservancy. 

Cameron began buying up the land sometime after 1997 - amassing nearly 730 acres in three years. While his intitial intention was to create a family retreat affectionaly called "Tranquility Base," he later abandoned those plans and moved to sell the lot for $25M in 2007. In a decision that would appear uncharacteristic today given the director's staunch environmental views, Cameron even promoted the land as having potential for real estate development. 

"Now that he's in production on the sci-fi thriller 'Avatar,' however, Cameron wants to focus on filmmaking instead of real estate development," the LA Times reported in 2007. "The filmmaker, 52, sees his land as an opportunity for a buyer who is passionate about developing a family retreat or a community of half a dozen estates."

To the relief of conservationists, that land sale never happened. The fact, however, that it still carries the development tag was enough for them to move presently to protect it. 

"Because it's privately owned, there are some entitlements on that property that, if they had been developed by real estate developers, would've disrupted all the environmental resources and values that that land is being purchased for," County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told KPCC Radio. "This preserves a piece of very important, sensitive wildlife habitat." 

Cameron and his family still own a 100-acre ranch in Santa Barbara, as well as thousands of acres surrounding their farm in New Zealand, and nearly 100 acres in his native Canada

Want more on Cameron's growing agriculture empire? Check out these stories.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

James Cameron's Malibu land may get conservation tag
'Avatar' director owns several hundred acres of pristine wilderness that conservation groups are eager to preserve.