State Funding Protects East Merced County Vernal Pool Grasslands with Critically Threatened Species and Habitat


Sacramento, Calif – July 8, 2009 –

The California Rangeland Trust is pleased to announce the permanent conservation of the 2,918-acre Ichord Ranch, owned by Paul Ichord, in Merced County. Funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board purchased a conservation easement to conserve rolling grasslands with a high density of vernal pools and associated rare and endangered species. The conservation easement will ensure the existing habitat will continue to be managed in a manner that promotes a stunning array of threatened and endangered species, conserving significant natural landscapes and habitat areas.

“We appreciate the opportunity to be part of this project that protects not only tremendous vernal pool habitat but at the same time keeps the benefits of the ranching operation intact,” said John Donnelly, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “We are equally grateful for the understanding and patience on the part of the landowner and the other project partners as we have struggled during our state’s fiscal crisis.”

The Ichord Ranch sits within the Merced Grasslands, one of the largest and most intact vernal pool grasslands habitat in the world. Eleven state or federally listed threatened or endangered species are known to be on the Ranch, such as: succulent owl’s-clover, San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass, Colusa grass, the California tiger salamander, the San Joaquin kit fox and Swainson’s hawk. The high concentration of vernal pools supported by the current grazing practices sustains this abundance of species and wildlife.

Paul Ichord’s father bought the ranch in the 1950s and the family has run cattle here ever since. Paul and his three sons run stocker cattle on the property and pasture some cows in the summer. Paul said, “I have many pleasant memories duck and goose hunting here when I was a boy and now my boys and I get to do the same.”

Paul continued, “It has taken over five years to complete this project and it was an enormous struggle to stay with it. But this easement gives our family a new future. Working with our partners such as the Wildlife Conservation Board and the Rangeland Trust has made this project very worthwhile.”

The Ranch will continue to be privately owned and operated by the current landowners, and will remain on the County tax records.