December 27, 2018 by Nita Vail & K. Mark Nelson

In 20 years of conserving rangeland, this year has topped them all for many reasons. California Rangeland Trust’s extensive impact has reached critical mass and Californian’s are getting the message — conserving rangeland is more important than ever for our quality of life. It’s an exciting and critical time, for all of us.

Join us as we share highlights from this monumental 20th year:

    image of rolling hills

    More than 8,000 acres of working landscape have been conserved across the state, resulting in over 320,000 acres of rangeland conserved to date. For this we thank our donors and remarkable ranching partners. Some agreements were funded through federal and state agencies. Others were funded through mitigation partnerships with outside businesses seeking to offset development effects.

    The 2018 Farm Bill was signed! After more than two years of working alongside our land trust partners to advocate for changes to this important piece of legislation, we are excited to celebrate this big win for working lands conservation. Significant changes to the bill include: increasing funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to $450 million/year, removing the Agriculture Land Easement plan requirement, allowing landowner donations and expenses to satisfy match requirements, and granting the secretary waiver authority from the Adjusted Gross Income limitation.

    More than 150 new and existing donors rallied to help conserve Rock Front Ranch – our first project funded entirely by contributions from the community. This tremendous generosity brought us to 90% of our total fundraising goal! Preliminary work for the conservation easement began in this fall. We anticipate closing, and celebrating success in 2020!

    Ranchers are helping conserve migratory bird habitat along the Pacific Flyway through a strategic partnership with Inter-Mountain West Joint Venture. The partnership supports ranchers who maintain irrigated and wet meadow habitat— conducive to natural bird migration—as an agricultural practice. This important path starts in California’s Central Valley and stretches to Canada and Alaska.

    image of cows in field

    As partners in a new model for rangeland conservation, we are helping reshape future conservation plans statewide. The South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan will allow land trusts to hold working land agreements within a habitat conservation plan.

    Acclaimed filmmaker Chris Malloy helped us create A Common Ground, a new short film telling the story of how ranching and rangeland are critical to California’s environment, future, and quality of life. Released in September, A Common Ground quickly went viral with over 40,000 views and counting!

    More than 125 urban youth visited working ranches in Northern California, connecting with agriculture, conservation, and nutrition through the Where Your Food Grows and Grazes program. Thanks to our ranching partners at Koopmann, Oak Ridge Angus, and Rana Ranches, along with our program sponsors Raley’s Giving and AT&T Aspire for helping us offer hope to our future generations. Read the full article here.

    A groundbreaking rangeland study with UC Berkeley scientists will be completed in early 2019. This study will guide our future conservation efforts and help communicate the benefits of working rangeland with new audiences and funding partners. UC Berkeley scientists are our partners in a groundbreaking rangeland study that will be completed in 2019. This study will guide our future conservation efforts and help communicate the benefits of working rangeland with new audiences and funding partners.

    Our Founders’ Appreciation Dinner in October honored those who have built the Rangeland Trust over 20 years. It was a powerful night of gratitude and celebration for the donors, landowner partners, friends, and supporters responsible for our story, success, and the conservation of 320,000 acres across California.

    Planned Giving Society hosted its inaugural meeting, which included a special tour of the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum. This group serves to honor those whose generous commitment to future giving will ensure the growth and stability of the Rangeland Trust for generations to come.


    Now is an exciting time for rangeland conservation because the conversation is changing. Old misconceptions about land management are being replaced by discussions about the significance of grasslands for groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, and healthy ecosystems.

    What we’ve begun, and will continue in the years to come, is to build a groundswell around this new school of thought—capitalizing on the power of rangeland to bridge environmental and ranching interests, and engaging people across the urban-rural divide to find common ground in stewarding our landscapes. The Board of Directors, with the help of volunteers, donors, and staff, recently developed a strategic plan to guide the future success of our work. We see the Rangeland Trust being a leading provider of conservation and stewardship services, as well as a trusted national, state, and community thought leader in the conservation of working lands.

    Over the past 20 years, you’ve helped to establish a foundation for success in furthering rangeland conservation. Thank you for the role you’ve played in enabling us to come this far. Together, let’s build upon this foundation and create a brighter future for our state and our world.