SAN SIMEON, CA – November 6, 2014 –
One of the largest land conservation agreements in California history is now a decade old and has exceeded expectations in protecting a significant part of the state’s coastline. In an unprecedented partnership, Hearst Corporation, California Rangeland Trust, American Land Conservancy and the state of California closed the deal to ensure the 128-square mile Hearst Ranch would remain pristine working rangeland forever, including 18 miles of coastal landscape. Nearly 10 years later, the land remains a viable wildlife habitat and a groundbreaking model for rangeland conservation around the country.
California Rangeland Trust and Hearst Corporation are hosting an event on Friday, Nov. 7 at 4:30 p.m. at Hearst Ranch to commemorate a decade of conservation and bring together key players in the historic deal. The event will look back at the agreement and how preserving one of the most visited coastlines in the country has impacted the community and the natural world for future generations. Guests include state dignitaries, state elected officials, agriculture industry leaders, conservationists and agency leaders.
“This land is a testament to what can happen when good people come together for a common good – to protect the open spaces we all care about,” said Stephen T. Hearst, vice president and general manager of Hearst Corporation Western Properties. “We are now reaping the benefits of the beautiful sweeping vistas, the oaks and chaparral of this ranch. It’s a great feeling knowing that this agreement has made such a difference now and for the future.”
The historic agreement took more than six years of negotiation and includes one of the most important coastal land gifts ever made to the state of California. Valued at $230 million, the pact brought together the Hearst Corporation, private non-profit organizations and state agencies including Natural Resources Agency, Wildlife Conservation Board, Dept. of Fish and Game, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, California Coastal Conservancy, and Dept. of Transportation in an unparalleled collaboration.
“The Hearst Ranch agreement has had an important impact on the protection of working landscapes around the country. It has changed how we support ranchers in this process and set a precedent for others to come together for the entire community and for the land we all cherish,” said Nita Vail, CEO of the Rangeland Trust. “Now and for years to come, the Hearst Ranch will remain as it should be – open, productive, healthy and pristine coastal landscape.”
California Rangeland Trust holds the conservation easement on the land. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a private landowner and the Trust to preserve agricultural land and open space in perpetuity. As the only rancher-led land trust in the state, the California Rangeland Trust was brought in by Steve Hearst to ensure Hearst Ranch would be held and managed under a private conservation easement. Before the Hearst Ranch agreement, the Rangeland Trust conserved a fairly small number of ranches and held 77,000 acres in trust. Since the agreement, the Rangeland Trust has protected an additional 37 ranches and more than 124,400 acres of rangeland, bringing the current total to over 283,000 acres forever conserved.
Today, Hearst Ranch is the largest single source grass-fed beef operation in the country. More than 1.3 million pounds of grass-fed beef go into this program each year. The ranch boasts one of the most remarkable and diverse assemblages of native plants, plant communities and natural habitats in all of California, including more than 1,000 plant and wildlife species.
Hearst Ranch staff practice low-stress livestock handling, rotational grazing, and proactive management for wildlife, water quality, and the protection of sensitive ecological areas.
Given California’s persistent drought, significant focus has been placed on development of new wells, springs, and livestock water sources on the ranch. These water sources benefit both livestock and native wildlife. Hearst Corporation also conducts regular water quality testing in the many watersheds within the property and engages in livestock management to improve water quality, including excluding livestock from sensitive watersheds during periods of stream flow.
“Looking at the Hearst Ranch today, it’s a point of immense pride for all who were involved in protecting it,” said Steve Sinton, a San Luis Obispo County rancher, founding board member of the California Rangeland Trust, and a member of the team that monitors the Hearst easement. “This undisturbed coastal land stands as a breathtaking example of how good conservation management helps us all by taking care of our water systems, helping plants and wildlife thrive and providing good local food to our communities.”