December 28, 2020 by Michael Delbar, Valerie Gordon, and K. Mark Nelson

Through all the challenges of 2020, you—our ranching partners and loyal supporters—inspired us with your resilience. From the coronavirus lockdown demonstrating the necessity of reliable food sources to statewide wildfires proving the importance of managed grasslands, this year showcased, as never before, the value of California’s rangelands. Protecting our open spaces and those who steward them is vital to a safe and vibrant future. Despite the bumps in the road, this has been a remarkable year for the working landscapes of our state. Here are just a few of the highlights we were able to achieve in 2020 because of you:

    More than 9,000 acres of rangeland were conserved across California! This was possible because of generous community support, federal and state agency grants, and partnerships with businesses seeking to offset development.

    An impressive 343,000 acres of working lands are now permanently protected through the Rangeland Trust. That’s not a number we take lightly! We adapted our monitoring practices in order to safely uphold the perpetual responsibilities of these projects. We are happy to report that we were able to stay on track in keeping our promises to our partner landowners, funders, and the land itself.

    Michael Delbar took the helm as CEO. After 20 years of incredible service to the organization, our beloved Nita Vail passed the reins. As our former COO for more than 10 years, Michael, with his talented team, hit the ground running without missing a beat in service to the ranchers and working landscapes of California.

    We forged new partnerships with public and private utility companies across the state to offer rangeland mitigation solutions. These programs help us ensure that critical habitat for California’s threatened and endangered species can remain open for generations to come.

    We prioritized our Rangeland Trust community throughout the lockdown. While we may not have been able to break out our dancing boots or exchange hugs and handshakes at in-person events, we were able to stay connected. In the spring, we hosted a virtual A Western Affair watch party. We also launched a fun series of virtual ranch tour experiences featuring ranchers from within the Rangeland Trust community.

    We released the long-awaited Ecosystem Services Study with our research partners from UC Berkeley. Thanks to this groundbreaking study, we were able to form new partnerships and strengthen existing ones with our peers in conservation in order to elevate rangeland concerns and inform legislative discourse about the need for resources to support working lands.

    More than 100 donors helped raise the funds to conserve the Bloom Ranch in Tuolumne County! Your support filled the gaps from public grants and made a big difference for this family and this landscape. Thanks to you, the work of conservation can now begin on the ranch, and we look forward to celebrating with all our supporters soon.

    We are partnered with Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo to create a new educational center at the iconic Sheila Varian Ranch. This center will help shape tomorrow’s agricultural workforce. We are currently fundraising to conserve the ranch and convert the facilities for more hands-on learning at many levels, from ranch hand basics to running a successful agricultural business, along with training in veterinary technology and equine and livestock husbandry. Cuesta aims to support the current agricultural community as well and has started presenting community workshops on the ranch.

    Through good times and tough times, you have steadfastly stepped forward to protect our state’s precious rangelands and the resources they provide. Our family of supporters continue to fight for the working landscapes and ranchers of California. Because of you, 2020 has been a year of growth and achievement. We look forward to celebrating with you all in the new year.