With your help we can preserve this irreplaceable part of California's legacy.

Information About California's Rangelands

Ranching families own or manage more than 22 million acres of privately-owned rangeland in California. Combined with over 19 million acres of publicly-owned grazing land in the state, this privately-owned ranchland provides the economic foundation for many rural communities. Today's ranching families are adopting innovative management practices that blend old ways with new, and protect and enhance the environment. In short, rangelands are economic, ecological and cultural resources that California cannot afford to lose.

But California is losing its rangelands. By 2040, according to the estimate of the California Department of Finance, the state's population will swell to more than 50 million people. Rangelands that were once home to cattle, coyotes and blue oaks are now home to subdivisions, shopping malls and freeways, and this conversion is accelerating. Ranchettes and large lot developments damage rangeland ecosystems by disrupting natural water cycles and fragmenting wildlife habitat.

History of California Rangeland Trust

In 1998, a group of innovative ranchers within the California Cattlemen's Association founded the California Rangeland Trust. Recognizing that the environmental health of the state's rangelands and economic health of its rural communities are intertwined, they created an organization to provide and promote alternate ways to safeguard rangeland agriculture and the natural balance of its ecosystems. California Rangeland Trust is a 501 (c)(3) and  is working to permanently protect hundreds of thousands of acres of California rangeland through agricultural conservation easements.

California Rangeland Trust works closely with landowners to protect and enhance the environmental and economic benefits that these working landscapes provide. Landowners can be confident that California Rangeland Trust understands their concerns and will work with them to protect and improve the environmental quality of their land and the economic stability of their ranching operations.

Preservation of Private Rangelands

California Rangeland Trust uses conservation easements to preserve the inherent benefits of the ranching industry for future generations. An agricultural conservation easement is a voluntary, legally recorded agreement between the landowner and California Rangeland Trust that restricts the land to agricultural and open space uses.

Conservation easements preserve ranching for the future by protecting the land from future development, and permanently protecting open space and agricultural values. A conservation easement is created by the signing of an agreement between the landowner and California Rangeland Trust or any other qualified organization or government agency willing to accept the easement.

Our Hopes and Dreams

In addition to providing viable conservation alternatives directly to landowners, California Rangeland Trust participates in collaborative efforts with other conservation organizations to gain public support and funding for rangeland protection and stewardship enhancement.

Ecological Benefits

  • Virtually all of the water consumed by California residents flows over rangeland.
  • Research has shown that private lands typically provide better wildlife habitat as the result of the private owner stewardship ethics.
  • Endangered or threatened species depend on rangeland for their habitat. In fact, 95 percent of all federally threatened or endangered species have some habitat on private land.
  • Many ecological resources depend on properly managed grazing by domestic livestock for their continued viability.
  • Today's ranching families are adopting innovative management practices that blend time-tested management methods with new innovative approaches, which benefit both livestock and wildlife.

Economic Benefits

  • Privately owned ranches remain on the tax rolls, providing tax income to the local community.
  • It is less expensive to acquire conservation easements than for a state or local entity to acquire fee title – the cost per acre for an easement is a fraction of the fee value.
  • Privately managed land is less expensive to the public, and through conservation easements, California can be assured land will remain as open space.

Cultural Benefits

  • The rolling oak savannahs that symbolize California are largely family-owned ranchlands.
  • The majority of California's ranches are multi-generational family operations. Many have been in existence for over a hundred years and are operated by fourth and fifth generation ranchers.
  • Archaeological sites dating to Native American populations and early European settlers have remained untouched on rangelands due to the protection of private ownership.