Sharing California's Ranching History

Ranching in California is synonymous with history. The stories of family pioneers, their labor, their passion, and their stewardship of the land is both fascinating and inspiring. For your reading list recommendations, we want to highlight a few recent publications from our California Rangeland Trust community.

Grand Canyon to Hearst Ranch

By. Elizabeth Austin, Rangeland Trust Supporter

Harriet Hunt Burgess was a passionate conservationist who persevered in the face of daunting obstacles and took extraordinary risks to save land. At the peak of Harriet’s conservation career, after many successful years at Trust for Public Land, she founded the American Land Conservancy to take on projects that other conservation organizations were not willing to tackle. Harriet concluded her career in a blaze of glory by partnering with the California Rangeland Trust to conserve the Hearst Ranch.

Elizabeth Austin tells Harriet’s inspiring story in her book, Grand Canyon to Hearst Ranch: One Woman’s Fight to Save Land in the American West. The catalyst for Harriet’s transformation from a busy housewife with many family and community responsibilities into a tireless advocate for conservation was the first of her many trips through the Grand Canyon. In Grand Canyon to Hearst Ranch, Elizabeth interweaves her own exhilarating adventure in the Grand Canyon with five of Harriet’s most significant and representative conservation achievements.

Elizabeth Austin is a historian and former librarian with master’s degrees in both fields. Grand Canyon to Hearst Ranch is her second book. Since it was published, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to California Rangeland Trust.

A Ranch For Generations

By. Robyn Rominger, Rangeland Trust Landowner Partner

In A Ranch for Generations, author, journalist, and blogger Robyn Rominger tells the story of a California ranch and the lives of its inhabitants from the time it was homesteaded during the Gold Rush to the present day. We learn of the families, love lives, travels, and business dealings of the various generations. Some suffered hard times and others enjoyed the good life. Whether it was raising cattle or sheep or growing crops, the residents preserved the land for agricultural purposes. The book also provides an in-depth look at how the land has remained in agriculture for nearly two centuries. 

Rancho Sisquoc: Enduring Legacy of an Historic Land Grant Ranch

By. Judith Flood Wilbur and Chase Reynolds Ewald, Rangeland Trust Supporters

The ranch’s approximately 37,000 acres extend from the edge of the Los Padres National Forest to the lush vineyards on the mesas to fertile farmland in the bottomland, and range almost the entire length of the Sisquoc River valley in northern Santa Barbara County. Engaging text, maps, and archival documents are paired with vintage and contemporary photographs to bring the landscape and its history to life, from prehistory to the days of the vaqueros, from turn-of-the-century homesteading to the realities of a contemporary cattle ranch, farming operation, vineyard and winery with a passionate wine club membership of 1,500.

Forewords by former Governor Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr., a California history enthusiast; Stephen T. Hearst, whose interest in preservation extends to his oversight of the vast ranch lands surrounding Hearst Castle; and Eric Hvolboll, a rancher and longtime friend of the Flood family whose ancestors came from Mexico to Santa Barbara County in the 1700s, add depth and perspective to the narrative. An introduction by co-owner Judith Flood Wilbur and preface by author Elizabeth Clair Flood speak to the role the ranch has played in the lives of one family for seven decades, and their hopes for preserving it for future generations. Rancho Sisquoc: Enduring Legacy of an Historic Land Grant Ranch will give readers a sense of this special place and its unique role in California history.