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Sardella Ranch: Fighting Fire with Fire

In the summer of 2013, a fire came through the Sardella Ranch. Where most would see devastation, Michael Sardella, owner of the Sardella Ranch in Tuolumne County, saw an opportunity.

Sardella has been a resident of the Sonora area his whole life. Since his family settled onto the ranch in 1957, he has witnessed firsthand the effects that population growth and development have on small towns in America.

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Kids gathered around sign with Raley's logo

Meet Our Partners: Raley’s

Raley’s is committed to nourishing our people, our communities and our planet through action. This mission is why Raley’s has been an essential partner of the California Rangeland Trust.

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Hye ya Nye Wall ye. Touch the Earth.

Throughout the years and between the birth of six children, numerous state elections, and the welcoming of 14 grandchildren, the Touch the Earth Ranch, located in the hills of Calaveras County, has served as a haven for John and Patricia Garamendi and their family. All who have encountered it have been undoubtedly touched by the ranch’s peaceful serenity and scenic beauty.

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East Sheridan Vernal Pool Preserve: Rainless Resilience

According to USDA’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, the greater Sacramento area saw an average of roughly five inches of rainfall during the early winter and spring months this year, which is down 40% compared to other years. For ranchers like Bret Ellis, owner of the East Sheridan Vernal Pool Preserve, their management of the land relies heavily on the rain season.

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Ranchers who spend their lives caring for rangeland are a resource as valuable as watersheds and viewsheds. Elizabeth Marshall calls it
“heritageshed”: the invisible but tangible sacrifice of generational ranchers who see stewardship as a calling beyond financial return.

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Every Day is Earth Day

Earth Day falls on April 22nd, but for the ranching community, every day is Earth Day.

This could not ring truer for Darrel and Karen Sweet, owners of the Sweet Ranch in Alameda County and proud California Rangeland Trust ranching partners. “As you enter our property, we have a sign that says, ‘Every day is Earth Day on our ranch,'” Darrel explained. The couple received the sign from friends and fellow California Rangeland Trust ranching partners, Tim and Melinda Koopmann from the Koopmann Ranch, many years ago. Today, the Sweets remain committed to carrying out this mantra both in their words and actions every day.

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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:

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Jessica Schley Riding on Family Ranch


Jessica had a childhood that many of us may only dream of – growing up on the family ranch with wide-open spaces as her endless playground, doing her homework in a special spot of the old hay barn near her horse, and being called home for dinner each night by the ringing of the metal triangle. Family history and natural beauty surrounded her every day, and she saw them all as special gifts in her life.

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Imagine a project that would perfectly balance meeting the infrastructure demands of a growing community while protecting a valuable working landscape in the process. A new community in West Roseville, a suburb located 25 miles east of Sacramento, California, is seeking to accomplish just that by serving as a model for thoughtful development, innovative land management, and responsible stewardship.

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Image of blue river.


We are thrilled to announce the release of new ecosystem services research showing the long-term benefits of land conservation. The study has found that working lands conserved by the Rangeland Trust provides $1 billion in environmental benefits annually, and Rangeland Trust conservation easements return $3.47 for every dollar invested.

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Cindy Maddelana pushes a heard of cattle through a pasture of lush green grass


Sierra County is filled with majestic mountain tops, fertile valleys, and vast working lands. Considered one of the most scenic ranches in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Maddalena Ranch consists of 743-acres of working rangeland. The ranch is located in the southwestern part of the Sierra Valley where the California Rangeland Trust has conserved over 29,000 acres of open space.

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Big changes are happening at the California Rangeland Trust. After twenty years of service, CEO Nita Vail will leave her position at the end of April, passing the reins to Michael Delbar, who has been with the Rangeland Trust for ten years and currently serves as its chief operating officer.

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In an emotional confession, Merrie told of her promise to Don’s father regarding the ranch. “I made a promise to his dad on his deathbed, because his dad, his mother, and I were close. I made a promise to him, before he passed with cancer, that I would work my best to keep this a ranch and carry on his wishes that he was already doing. I told him I would do it. He knew I would keep the promise.”

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Image of large red barn


A bright, red barn embellished with the Certified Angus Beef, and Five Star Land and Livestock logos, greeted ranch tour visitors as they drove by pastures of black angus cattle onto Mark and Abbie Nelson’s property. As part of the California Rangeland Trust’s partnership with Raley’s and AT&T through the “Where Your Food Grazes and Grows” program, our last ranch tour of the year was nothing short of perfect.

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What an exciting year it has been for the Rangeland Trust! With the support of our ranching partners, donors, and friends, we’ve hit a lot of milestones. Here are just a few highlights:

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Image of wind fan in field


California Rangeland Trust has conserved more than 330,000 acres of land in its twenty-one years, a number we don’t take lightly. It is our responsibility to ensure the terms of each conservation agreement are being upheld and the land is well-preserved. We do this, in part, through an annual process called “monitoring.” where we visit each conserved property.

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Before starting my new role as the Communications Coordinator for California Rangeland Trust, I traveled three hours from my home in Visalia to attend the PT Ranch tour in Ione. The tour was part of a larger series of unique on-farm experiences offered through the Rangeland Trust’s Where Your Food Grows and Grazes program.

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Image of man installing solar panels.

A CALIFORNIA SUCCESS STORY: The Jack Ranch Solar Project

Imagine generating enough clean energy on a ranch to power 100,000 homes. Thanks to a new solar project on the Jack Ranch in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, owned by the Hearst Corporation, a groundbreaking model of clean energy, innovative land management, and stewardship is creating 280 megawatts of green energy. Spanning 2,900 acres, the California Flats solar project was thoughtfully designed as an alternative revenue source for the ranch that is completely compatible with existing agricultural operations. California Rangeland Trust is proud to play a role in a venture that demonstrates the importance of rangeland and gives insight into the future of large-scale sustainability projects on ranches.

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California’s Super Bloom Brings a Magical Experience to the Keegan Ranch

On Saturday, April 20, over 100 guests stopped to smell the flowers during a tour of the Keegan Ranch. Hosted by California Rangeland Trust and ranch owner Jim Keegan, the event was sponsored by Raley’s as part of the “Where Your Food Grows and Grazes” program. It is designed to bring the farm to-fork movement to life for children and families from both urban and rural areas, and it gives them a unique opportunity to connect to healthy food and the land and people who produce it.

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Tim Koopmann: A Voice for Grazing

From Tim Koopmann’s ranch in Alameda County, he has watched the city grow. A shadow encroaching on the green hills, urban expansion has scratched at his horizon as long as he can remember. His small stretch of land is 50 miles from San Francisco, between Livermore and Fremont, right smack in the middle of one of the state’s most rapidly-developing regions. He’s been fighting for these open spaces all his life, battling pressure from developers, declining cattle prices, drought, enormous tax penalties triggered by the deaths of his father and grandfather, and negative public opinions against grazing.

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The Last Two Years, Two Months, & 18 Days

Conservation easements on the 2,502 acre Keegan Ranch and 1,547 acre Epperson Ranch add 4,049 acres to the existing 16,130 acre wildlife corridor in the valley – the already conserved Bear Valley and Payne Ranches. In collaboration with CRT, WCB and NRCS matched funds to conserve the two ranches.

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Rominger Brothers Farms: A Model of Sustainability & Stewardship

Bruce and Rick Rominger are fifth-generation farmers and ranchers. Their business, Rominger Brothers Farms, became a model of environmental sustainability through their commitment to growing crops and managing rangeland using sustainable practices. Partnering with California Rangeland Trust to forever protect their land allowed them to maintain numerous habitat-improvement efforts.

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Santa Barbara Ranchers: The Historic & Contemporary Coming Together at Reunir 2019

Purposefully hosted at the Santa Barbara Club—formed in 1892 to serve as a meeting place for area businessmen, especially the widespread ranching community— the event welcomed guests from both historic and contemporary ranching families to celebrate California’s strong vaquero heritage, the community’s deep connection to open space, and the California Rangeland Trust’s role in keeping our working landscapes just as they are, forever.

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2018 — Celebrates 20 Years of Impact & Hope

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.

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Yolo Land & Cattle Company Carbon Cowboys Healing the Earth

In honor of World Soil Day on December 5th, we asked visionary ranching couple and California Rangeland Trust partners Scott and Karen Stone of Yolo Land & Cattle Company about their working approach to soil health and sustainability. New research is highlighting how vital soil health is to the future of our planet, but in the lives of ranchers like Scott and Karen, it’s a daily consideration.

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Skyrose Ranch: Serving California

Through the truck window, the rolling hills of California’s central coast are still covered with plentiful grass that stretches as far as the eye can see. The land is owned by philanthropist and real estate entrepreneur B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. who raises all-natural beef and hosts a veteran’s program on the 20,000-acre SkyRose Ranch. SkyRose Ranch was once the Deer Valley Ranch, graciously donated to California Rangeland Trust in 2010 and subsequently sold to Mr. Hughes and protected forever through a conservation easement.

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The Genasci Ranch

“The wonderful thing about the Rangeland Trust is they are ranchers and farmers,” Jim says. “They know ranching. I never feel like I have to look over my shoulder. They’re not there to run the ranch. They share the mindset we have—a love of the land.”

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El Chorro Ranch

Not all ranchers fit the John Wayne stereotype. Some look like Katie Isaacson Hames.

A young blue-eyed mother making a life on the Gaviota coast, Katie has a degree in biology with a minor in creative writing. She worked at a local school for eight years and met her husband Will at a farmer’s market. She is also a third-generation rancher.

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CRT Presents “A Common Ground” – A Short Film by Chris Malloy of Farm League

The California Rangeland Trust is thrilled to announce the release of a new short film, celebrating 20 years of protecting California’s open range. After 20 years of conserving life on the range, we were reminded that the stories of our partners in ranching conservation are our greatest capital. They’re stories about hope, healing, a better future, and a cleaner planet. They’re stories about stewardship and heritage.

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Celebrating a California Ranching Legacy: Walter L. Vail

Last month, our team was on site for an incredible film shoot with director Chris Malloy and his production company, Farm League. For all involved, this experience was an amazing time of learning from the ranchers and conservationists we profiled. We are so excited to share this short film with you soon!

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A Different Legacy…

A granite slab beside Memorial Rock honors the Sagehorns, who purchased this Mendocino County ranch in 1948. The boulder has long served as a sacred landmark—for the First People of the land, Native Americans who inscribed its face with markings of lost meaning, and later the Sagehorns, who chose this spot as their final resting place.

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