Our Priorities

California Rangeland Trust, the largest land trust in California, is passionate about protecting what matters. Water, air, open space. Read more about our priorities.

California Rangeland Trust: Protecting What Matters

62% of open space in California is rangeland.

This means our clean air, fresh water, diverse wildlife, and beautiful open space views rely on the stewardship of private landowners.

Today’s land stewards face challenges, including estate taxes, government overregulation, high cost of living, and pressure from developers. California Rangeland Trust stands with rancher conservationists, supporting them as they continue to preserve the resources that matter to all of us.

Conserving Rangeland

Throughout the country, our landscapes are disappearing. Every 2.5 minutes, a football field’s worth of open space in the American West is lost. In California alone, more than 500,000 acres of land were converted to industry and housing in the last 10 years. Seasonally dry environments like California benefit from well-managed grazing, which serves to mulch soil, knock down weeds, and plant seeds. Grazing keeps our landscapes in balance; without grazing, most California grasslands dry out and deteriorate and shrubs begin to grow. As native plants are crowded out, the bare soil under the surviving shrubs is susceptible to wind and water erosion. These plants not only reduce the vitality of the habitat, but also pose a greater fire hazard. Once the landscape burns, even more soil is lost due to mudslides and other forms of erosion. Once private, undeveloped rangeland changes hands, it almost never goes back. When put on the market, these invaluable landscapes are usually sold to developers. California Rangeland Trust partners with ranchers to facilitate the careful stewardship of these landscapes for generations to come. It matters for us, and it matters for the future of our state.

Supporting Wildlife

Did you know that 67% of endangered species spend all or part of their lives on private rangeland? What’s good for livestock is good for wildlife. Ranching requires a strong environmental philosophy, balanced management practices, humane treatment of livestock, and careful stewardship of the land and its resources.

Before ranchers introduced domesticated cattle to the American West, millions of bison roamed the plains. Many protected species continue to rely on grazing for their grassland habitats. Grazing creates a mosaic pattern in the grasses, essential to the habitats of animals such as ground-nesting birds and the California tiger salamander. Grazing promotes biodiversity in the soil, causing the growth of wildflowers such as the Johnny Jump-Up, which the calippe silverspot butterfly needs to flourish. Grazing eliminates weeds and plants seeds, facilitating native plants and grasses and reducing the invasive shrubs that pose a significant fire hazard in California’s dry climate.

There are dozens of examples that demonstrate how managed grazing is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. California’s ranchers are ardent conservationists because their livelihoods depend on healthy rangelands to sustain their livestock and remain viable for the next generation. We have learned that what is good for ranches is good for the environment—and that includes the habitats of sensitive species.

Honoring Western Heritage

The vast majority of ranches are family-owned and operated. Many of these ranches have stayed in the same family for four or five generations. While children and grandchildren may want to remain in the ranching life, economic pressures such as the estate tax are forcing the sale of ranches at an increasing rate.

When sold, these working ranches are typically put into development and lost to agriculture forever. Healthy livestock provides nutritious protein for families and communities, and keeping ranchers ranching is an investment in a strong local and state economy. 

Clean Air & Fresh Water

California’s open spaces matter. These landscapes facilitate the resources we need: Fresh air, clean water, and healthy food. Most people don’t know that over 85% of California’s fresh water runs over ranches. We rely on these open spaces for our clean, safe drinking water. We also need those lands for our air quality. Scientists now know that carefully managed grazing can help draw carbon back into the soil, significantly reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.