The Dry Creek Ranch is located about 3 miles north of the town of Snelling and about 20 miles north of the town of Merced along La Grange Road, also known as Highway 59 in Merced County. The Dry Creek Ranch is owned and operated by the Richards and their children. Dana’s family came from Ireland and homesteaded this area in the late 1800’s. The Ranch is exclusively used for livestock grazing. The Ranch family desires to preserve the land for open space and grassland habitat. A conservation plan through the NRCS Grassland Reserve Program has implemented proper grazing use and resource management practices to improve water quality, water quantity, soil protection and wildlife habitat conditions.
The California Rangeland Trust worked with landowners Roy and Dana Richards to purchase a conservation easement on 4,417 acres of the Dry Creek Ranch property in July 2014, which the family then donated a large portion of the easement back to California Rangeland Trust. The ranch provides important habitat for one federally endangered species, the Hartweg’s golden sunburst and three federally threatened species including the succulent owl’s-clover, vernal pool fairy shrimp, and California tiger salamander. There are also seven California DFG species of concern. Six of the plant species also have California Native Plant Society (CNPS) status.
This project is part of a larger conservation effort in the region. More than 18,000 acres of open rangeland has been or is in the process of being protected using conservation easements. Permanently conserving this land will protect the natural landscape from the fragmentation and development pressures of ranchettes and orchards as well as a portion of the historical John Muir Sheep Camp site. The Conservation Easement is funded by the California Wildlife Conservation Board, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife through Section 6 funding.