A Student's Perspective of a Day at the O'Connell Ranch

On October 8th, 2015, the Farm to Fork and Culinary program at River City High School went on a field trip to the O’Connell Ranch in Colusa, California.  On the field trip we got to experience many different ways of farming, different types of fruit, animals, and nutrition.  I met a lot of new and awesome people there including the FFA officers & advisor, owners of the O’Connell Ranch, and the President of the Cattle Women’s Association.  Having this class and going on this trip was probably the highlight of my year!

When we first got there we were greeted by warm greetings and smiles.  We sat down at tables that were set up for us and we were also given brochures, fliers, and fresh fruit from their ranch.  The FFA officers from Colusa High School introduced themselves and so did the owners of the O’Connell Ranch, Dan and Barbara O’Connell.  They were so happy to have us there and we were all thankful to be there.  After they had introduced themselves they had separated us into equal groups of six.  Then we went to a station that matched our group number.  I was in group six, so our first station was a tour of their beautiful ranch.  To go on the tour, we had to get on a little wooden wagon pulled by a tractor with their cattle brand, branded into the side, along with many other cattle brands.  On the tour Barbara O’Connell had showed us her lovely fruit trees, cattle, and barn.  She has also explained to us the history of the ranch itself.  She also took us to the little market she had and gave us a free fruit of our choice.  I chose their persimmons and it was the best fruit I have ever tasted.

Then the marvelous Farm to Fork teacher, Ms. McAllister, would ring a cowbell.  This signaled the end of our 20 minutes at the station we were at, and we would then rotate to the next station.  The next station was a branding station led by Sherry, a member of the Cattle Women’s Association.  She taught us how to brand cattle, and what it takes to raise a herd of cattle. She even let us brand a block of wood so we could have the feeling and experience of using the branding tool.  The next station was with two members of the FFA staff and they taught us interesting facts about nature, food, and cattle.  At the end of the lesson they quizzed our group and whoever got a question right got a piece of candy.  Station three was with the President of the FFA staff and she explained to us about pigs.  She explained to us what it takes to raise a pig, how they show a pig, and different species of pigs.  She also quizzed us at the end and gave candy to the winners.  After this station we had lunch and Raley’s sponsored our lunch giving us delicious sandwiches, chips, bananas, water, and a cookie.

Station four and five were petting zoo stations. Station four was about a Hybrid Cow, a very fluffy and adorable cow that one of the FFA students used to show at the fair. Station five was about a baby calf that was just around 10 weeks old.  The baby calf was scared to go near people but I was lucky enough to get a closer look and was also able to pet it.  There was a pig and a goat there as well.  All of the animals they had were very friendly and adorable to see.  After the O’Connell Ranch, we visited their other barn where they keep most of their cattle.  At the barn is where they gave shots to the cattle and branded them.  Sadly, after that, we had to leave small and welcoming Colusa and drive back to Sacramento.  Before we headed back to school, we made a quick stop at Raley’s to see how the fruit from ranches, like the O’Connell’s, get to market.

Unfortunately, the field trip had to come to an end when we arrived back at RCHS.  The field trip had to be the best field trip I have taken in a really long time.  The field trip was a perfect experience for students that are in the Farm to Fork and Culinary Program.  The field trip was the perfect amount of education and fun! 


Seeking Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Renewal

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, recognizes land conservation organizations like the California Rangeland Trust that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. Accreditation involves and extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs to ensure the highest standards of land conservation are employed.

Originally accredited in 2010, the California Rangeland Trust is pleased to announce it is
applying to renew its accreditation in 2015, and a public comment period is now open.
The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications.

Comments must relate to how the California Rangeland Trust complies with national quality
standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust.

To submit a comment regarding the California Rangeland Trust, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.
org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the
Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (Fax) 518-587-3183; (mail)
36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Comments on California Rangeland Trust’s application will be most useful by Sept. 30.

Our Promise

Yesterday we joined several other local charities on the West Steps of the State Capitol for an event to kick off the State’s Our Promise campaign.

Our Promise offers California State employees the opportunity to utilize payroll deduction to give to organizations they are passionate about.

Rangeland Trust Conservation Specialist Joe Navari at the Our Promise event on Thursday.

Our Promise: California State Employees Giving at Work encompasses 29 regional campaigns throughout the state. In previous years campaigns like this one have solicited more than 297,000 California State employees through Our Promise.

“Our Promise is important for the Rangeland Trust because it provides a vehicle for all of the 297,000 State of California employees to donate to our organization in a very simple payroll deduction process,” said Randy Gustavus, Rangeland Trust Director of Development.  “All of the charities in the campaign must meet a very stringent approval process and are vetted to insure employees that their money is being accepted and utilized to advance issues like land conservation in California.”

At the event we networked with hundreds of people and gave away every piece of literature, sticker, button, notepad and ink pen we had on hand.

It was a great event!


California’s ranchlands are getting a significant financial boost to their conservation, thanks to a generous partnership between California Rangeland Trust and Whole Foods Market.  Whole Foods Market stores in the Sacramento area recently named the Rangeland Trust as their Nickels for Non-Profits recipient for the current quarter. When Whole Foods Market customers bring in their own bags for groceries from July 6 – Sept. 27, they have the option of receiving a five cent credit (per bag) or the option to donate the five cents to the California Rangeland Trust to conserve California’s ranches that provide healthy food, clean water and air, abundant wildlife and western culture.

 “With your help we will be one step closer to conserving several hundred thousand acres of ranchland that await protection through the Rangeland Trust simply by returning your grocery bag,” said Rangeland Trust CEO Nita Vail.

Participating Whole Foods Market stores are located Roseville, Arden, Folsom and Davis.

Learn how you can volunteer to help with this program here.



About The California Rangeland Trust

 The California Rangeland Trust, a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation, was created to conserve the open space, natural habitat and stewardship provided by California’s ranches. To date, the Trust has protected more than 285,000 acres of productive grazing lands across the state through the use of conservation easements. For more information, visit www.rangelandtrust.org.

About Whole Foods Market

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com) is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company's motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to the company’s more than 73,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine for 16 consecutive

Volunteers Needed!

We are looking for volunteers to help with our Nickels for Non Profits campaign with Whole Foods Market in Sacramento. Please contact Randy Gustavus at 916-444-2096 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Here's some photos of the fun our volunteers had while raising more than $700 last weekend at Whole Foods Market on Arden Way.


Virtual Tour of Harris Ranch Beef

Have you ever driven by the large feedlot on I-5 near Coalinga? Here's a virtual tour of Harris Ranch Beef. We are grateful for people like our friends at Harris Ranch who ensure healthy, delicious, affordable beef makes it to grocery store for all to enjoy.


Boys and Girls Club of Sacramento Learns About Ranching at Yolo Land & Cattle Co. Thanks to Raley's

By Alexandra Gough

On June 25, 2015, the Boys and Girls club of Sacramento headed out to Yolo Land and Cattle Co. for a day filled with fun, laughter, and sunshine courtesy of Raley's. When we first arrived, the kids clambered out of the bus the second they were allowed, gathering around the tables, eyes wide as they took in the ranch headquarters. After a quick introduction, each kid was given a sheet of paper with pictures of objects such as black Angus cows, solar panels and water troughs to identify on a scavenger hunt. Armed with water, we all loaded into a flatbed truck covered in hay bales.

Each time we passed a new item on their list, Karen Stone would stand up and explain why each item was imperative to the smooth operation of the ranch. Questions about snakes, birds, and fences surfaced, but my personal favorite was “Do farmers actually eat hay like they do in the movies?” When we stopped at a pond, the kids left to go explore after they were reassured several times about a lack of snakes in the area. One little boy refused to leave the truck for a good ten minutes, absolutely terrified. He, like almost all of his companions had never been camping before or even hiking. After their scavenger hunt adventure, we headed back to headquarters for a wonderful lunch provided by Raley’s, whose crew volunteers had also accompanied us. Several kids ventured over to the nearest horse, tentatively petting him. One boy shut his eyes and presented the horse an apple slice, his hand slightly shaking. But a few seconds after, he began to giggle at the sensation and urge his friends to try.

Next, the group was shown how a horse was shod. Many were slightly horrified by the concept at first, but after one kid summed it up perfectly, telling her sister, “I guess the horse just got a manicure and new shoes.” Scott Stone and his son worked several cattle through the chute, showing the kids things such as the smooth and slightly curved sides that calmed the cattle. When one of the cows struggled slightly in the squeeze, one girl screamed and ran to a counselor, about to cry. After she was reassured that both she and the cow were safe, she ventured back, and started asking more questions than any other kid while Scott administered medicine. Kids that had been too shy to ask questions earlier became more and more talkative as the day went on, asking questions such as why the cows didn’t have horns, why they were only black and why Scott gave the cow a shot in the neck and not the thigh.

The last activity on the ranch was branding boards with the Yolo Land and Cattle Co. brand, adding a horseshoe, and decorating the boards to their fancy. One young boy was extremely proud of his work, telling me “I’m going to take this home to my mom and tell her how I did this all by myself!”

After a big thank you and goofy group photo, they all loaded up on the bus to go the nearest Raley’s grocery store. There, they got the full tour to truly understand how their food goes from the ranch to the grocery store shelves to their tables at home. I’ve seen how the ranch affects many people before, but watching these kids was different than anything I’ve ever seen. Their eyes lit up with every new opportunity. Many told me they had never pet a horse, or even seen a cow.Looking into their eyes on the ride home, not only was I convinced they would never forget their experience, but there was also an extra little sparkle, a sure sign of the infamous "Ranch Bug". Personally, I will now never underestimate the impact one cow can make on a life. Our communications director Anna-Lisa Laca later said that in all of her time working at CRT, this was one of her most rewarding experiences. Not only were these kids’ lives impacted, but our lives were too. And if that not proof that ranches really are magical, I’m not sure what is.

You can see the full day's itenerary here.

Changing Kids' Lives with a New Partnership

By Alexandra Gough, Communications and Events Intern
Roughly 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas- everyone else can be found in the apartments of suburbia. And as a consequence, there are only two types of kids; a rural or city kid. California’s statistic is even worse, with only 13% of our population living in rural areas. If that isn’t a plot for a good horror movie, I don’t know what is.
The closest most city kids get to a ranch is watching it flash by as they drive to Disneyland and then as they return home to perfectly manicured lawns. Ranch kids grow up under the influence of a traditional lifestyle, surrounded by the opportunities provided by open space. Two different lifestyles create two different mentalities, two different sets of values and two completely different kids.
I’ve grown up in the suburbia of Sacramento, only a few minutes from my middle school and always a quick bike ride away from half my friends. If someone says they rode a horse, it usually means they sat atop a grumpy pony for about five minutes while being paraded around in a circle at the California State Fair. My saving grace was the influence of my godmother. At a young age, I was often decked out in my favorite pink cowgirl boots, pink cowgirl hat, and pink shirt, atop any horse I could find. My godmother began to take me out to ranches, where I fell in love with the big eyed, snot covered cows and the horses that were startled by the small pink child clinging to them. But each time I would return home, back to the suburbia of Sacramento, where the closest thing to open space I could find was the park a block from my house.
Every time I go anywhere with a horse or cow, it’s like I’m that sparkly pink little kid all over again. The dirt I often get covered in is more like pixie dust; every time it is harder and harder to go back to my perfectly manicured lawn. This past Memorial Day weekend, my godmother, family and I headed down to a small ranch tucked into the hills of Templeton, California. I dragged my good friend Hannah along. She had never stepped foot on a ranch before, much less have the opportunity to get her hand covered in cow snot. Over the years, it has become relatively natural for me to slip on my cowboy boots and leave my converse at home. But watching her that weekend was as much a learning experience for me as it was for her. Wearing converse and a college sweatshirt, Hannah gave a calf a few shots and watched it get branded for the first time. When she pet that calf’s head, I watched her realize he was kinda adorable, snot and all.   

Hannah has been infected with the RanchBug ever since. If that isn’t proof why city kids should go out to ranches, I don’t know what is. I cannot even begin to stress the importance.

I am positively bursting with joy that I am able to announce that through a partnership with Raley’s, the Rangeland Trust’s dream of taking large groups of kids out to ranches and educating them is finally coming true. On June 25th, the Boys and Girls club of Sacramento will head out to Yolo Land & Cattle Co. for a day of fun, laughter, and sunshine. We are incredibly excited to get these kids onto a ranch to allow an entirely new audience to learn about the importance of rangeland conservation and legacy through hands on experience. Because after all, the RanchBug is the best kind of disease to be infected with.

Meet Alexandra, Summer Intern 2015

Dear Reader,

If you are a frequent guest of A Western Affair, you have most likely seen me wandering around with a fluff ball in my arms before dinner, allowing each guest to fall hopelessly in love with one of the most popular auction items, a border collie puppy. It has always been my job to parade the fluff ball around one last time in front of guests as the bellowing auctioneer attempts to coax bidders to throw up their cards just one more time. Fast forward a few years and I am now 16, entering my junior year of high school at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, California. On top of my fluff ball duties, I now possess the official title of Communications and Events Summer Intern at the California Rangeland Trust. The title comes with bragging rights, a few pens, an alarm clock, and of course my very own cubicle.

I originally took this internship simply hoping that when I included it on my college applications to colleges such as Cal Poly and Gonzaga it would make me look cooler than I am. But after just one week, I have come to understand just how awesome this opportunity is. I get to blog, post on social media, and take a few kids out to ranches with our partner Raley’s, which you will learn more about soon. Though I am currently very torn between colleges, I know I would someday like to have a career in either science or communications.  Perhaps someday I will end up doing something similar to my internship at Rangeland Trust. I’d really like to write for a living, but as my mom says, every writer has to have a day job before they get famous. In the long run, I want to make some sort of difference in the world. Whether it is just changing one person’s opinion on a matter, or winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I want to be part of making this world the best it can be. And of course, one day I would like a fluff ball of my own.



Alexandra Gough


Alexandra will be working the communications and events staff to blog, post on social media, help coordinate events and to help develop a strategy for teaching the next generation about cowboy conservation. We are excited to have her on the team.


California Rangeland Trust Completes Mitigation Agreement that Preserves an Environmental Relationship Between California Tiger Salamanders and Cattle

Who would ever think the threatened California tiger salamander would depend upon cattle to thrive?  In a unique mitigation easement, an 85-acre stretch of upland habitat environment for the California tiger salamander on the Koopmann Ranch will be protected in perpetuity, thanks to a partnership between the Koopmann family, Westervelt Ecological Services, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and California Rangeland Trust.

The 85-acre easement surrounds a pond on the Koopmann Ranch that is known as a fertile breeding ground for the federally threatened California tiger salamander. Because of habitat loss and destruction, cattle ranches that remain undeveloped, like the Koopmann Ranch, have become vital for the survival of the California tiger salamander species and others. Scientists have found that grazed land is beneficial for the little amphibians, creating a symbiotic relationship between cattle and tiger salamander that allows the salamanders to successfully breed and avoidpredators.












Mitigation is a term for a type of conservation easement.  When mitigation easements are used, it is to conserve a specific habitat in response to impacts on that habitat in another area. These easements are often funded by the business community, conserving the habitat in perpetuity.

The Koopmann Ranch was the ideal place to conserve California tiger salamander habitat because it is also home to a breeding pond for the amphibians that is protected by another 31-acre easement, also held by California Rangeland Trust. The two easements together reate a contiguous 116-acre stretch of habitat that will be forever protected as a thriving breeding ground for the threatened species.

“This agreement is a prime example of how we can work with the business community  to ensure open rangeland habitats critical to the health and well being of California are protected,” said Nita Vail, CEO of California Rangeland Trust. “Ranchers like Tim Koopmann are responsible caretakers of the water, plants and animals that live on their land.  By protecting our rangelands, we protect our quality of life.” 

The 850-acre Koopmann Ranch has been in operation since 1918. Located in the Bay Area between a golf course, Interstate 680, and a number of small ranches, it is a sanctuary for many endangered and threatened species including the Viola (Johnny-Jump-Up) wildflower, California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog, and the Callippe silverspot butterfly. A fourth generation rancher, Tim Koopmann employs managed grazing and progressive water conservation practices to protect the land, plants and animals while maintaining the family cattle operation. 

 Tiger salamanders live most of their lives underground, traveling through burrows in upland habitat for up to one mile to breed in ponds. Grazing by cattle helps lower the vegetation levels to a level optimal for California tiger salamander. Livestock also affect pond turbidity, which helps the amphibians avoid predation and raises nutrient levels so the algae they feed on can grow.*

“As a kid, I remember going to the pond and being fascinated by the salamanders that were there,” said Tim Koopmann, who has lived on the ranch his entire life and is a leader in ranch conservation. “Our ranch is healthy open space where all animals, big and small, can do what they were intended to do. Thanks to this agreement, we can give the California tiger salamander a chance to come back as a thriving species. “

California Rangeland Trust protects Dry Creek Ranch, A Land Rich with Grasslands and Vernal Pools

A ranch at the base of the Sierra Foothills known as Dry Creek Ranch will remain forever protected thanks to a partnership between its owners, Roy and Dana Richards, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Wildlife Conservation Board, Natural Resources Conservation Service and California Rangeland Trust. Through a conservation agreement, the Richards family will continue to operate their working cattle ranch and the grasslands, vernal pools, blue oak woodland, riparian habitats and all their wildlife will remain undisturbed by development.  California Rangeland Trust holds the conservation easement encumbering the land.

The 4,417 acre stretch of land on Dry Creek Ranch, owned and operated by the Richards family, is located north of the Merced River in an area recognized for its fertile annual grasses.  The family placed the land under a conservation easement with California Rangeland Trust to protect its open spaces and grasslands such as bromes, wild barley, Italian ryegrass and wild oats. Dry Creek Ranch also provides important habitat for one federally endangered species, the Hartweg’s golden sunburst and three federally threatened species including the succulent owl’s-clover, vernal pool fairy shrimp, and California tiger salamander. 

“This beautiful working ranch is a thriving home to plants and animals very important to California’s ecology,” said Nita Vail, CEO of California Rangeland Trust. “It’s a prime example of how rangeland is a critical part of healthy landscapes in California that not only contribute wildlife populations and habitat, but to our quality of life and the greater good of our communities.” 

The Ranch is designated as “critical” to meeting the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Planning Goals and is included within the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Recovery Plan for Vernal Pool Ecosystems of California and Southern Oregon (2005).  More than 18,000 acres of open rangeland in the Dry Creek Ranch area has been or is in the process of being protected using conservation easements as part of a broader conservation effort in the region,.

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a private landowner and the Trust to preserve agricultural land and open space in perpetuity. As the only rancher-led land trust in the state, the Richards family entrusted their land to the Rangeland Trust to ensure the land and all its plants and animals will be protected for generations to come.

California Rangeland Trust closes first conservation agreement of 2015 – the historic Flentge Ranch

California Rangeland Trust announces the first conservation agreement completed in 2015 -- the protection of historic Flentge Ranch. Located in Parkfield in the Cholame Hills of Southern Monterey County, Flentge Ranch is a family-operated ranch that includes 3,300 acres of open rangeland, just a few miles from the King Ranch subdivision. As part of a stretch of four ranches also conserved by the Rangeland Trust, protection of the Flentge Ranch is significant because it ensures more than 50,000 acres of wildlife corridor will remain undeveloped open landscape.

The conservation easement, which was fully funded by the Rangeland Trust, also ensures the family’s legacy will continue and protects a great diversity of habitat including hard and soft chaparral, blue, live and valley oak woodlands, vast grasslands and more than 250 plant species that also call the ranch home. The easement protects habitat for mountain lions, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, rodents, birds, and insects.   Conserving the Flentge ranch was a high priority for the Rangeland Trust based on the family’s need and the connection of wildlife corridors and natural resources through to surrounding ranches, most of which are protected by conservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a private landowner and the Trust to preserve agricultural land and open space in perpetuity.

The ranch was purchased by Henry Flentge in 1889 and has been managed by his direct descendants, the Hamann family, since that time.  At one point, the family faced a threat of selling a portion of the land that has been in their family for generations.

 “As the ranch dwindled in size from over 4,000 acres down to about 3,000 when original family members died and portions had to be sold for taxes, we were afraid the day would come when it could all be gone, leaving only memories,” said Duane Hamann, the family patriarch. “This constant foreboding has now come to rest, thanks to the California Rangeland Trust removing the fear forever and securing the remaining ranch for generations to come.”

The plentiful springs on the ranch benefit the wildlife on Flentge ranch as well as neighboring ranches, even during drought years. Water is currently shared with two neighboring ranches, demonstrating the significance of conserving this broad stretch of connected land and its resources.

“This is a prime example of what happens when blocks of rangeland are conserved. Water flows as it should, animals have an open habitat to live in and trees and plants can flourish in open landscapes, “ said Nita Vail, CEO of California Rangeland Trust. “These broad conservation efforts benefit the entire community because of the quality of life, natural resources and beauty they bring to everyone.”

“Maintaining and caring for the ranch is considered an honor by all the family,” Duane Hamann said.  “We take our stewardship of the land seriously and are deeply grateful for the partnership with the Rangeland Trust which has made its continuation possible.”

Oustanding Leadership in 2015

The California Rangeland Trust is led by a board of an outstanding and well respected ranchers. These men and women dedicate a lot of time to ensuring that the Rangeland Trust fulfills it's mission. We'd like to thank returning board members and introduce you to a few new members (*) too!

Board of Directors

CHAIRMAN | Darrel Sweet, Livermore

VICE CHAIRMAN | Jack Hanson, Susanville

TREASURER | Marty Morehart, Santa Paula

SECRETARY | Julie Kirby, Los Olivos

IMMEDIATE PAST | Scott Stone, Woodland

Woody Barnes, Julian
Carolyn Carey, Alturas
Sylvia Cattani, Bakersfield *
Jim Chance, Ballico
Valerie Gordon, Gardnerville, NV *
Clayton Koopmann, Sunol
K. Mark Nelson, Wilton
Dan O’Connell, Colusa
Jack Rice, Davis
Daniel Sinton, Santa Margarita

Board Members Emeritus

Devere Dressler, Gardnerville, NV
Steve McDonald, Sanger
Steve Sinton, Shandon
Darrell Wood, Vina

The National Drought Mitigation Center discusses how you can help Monitor California’s Drought

By Jenni Perez, Communications Intern

Farmers and ranchers would not be able to operate their land without water. It feeds their animals, waters their crops and provides healthy pastures for animals and wildlife to roam. California’s drought has shown these ranching families the importance of water availability by reducing its amount, leaving them in a state of panic, lost productivity and even lost jobs. While an end to the drought may not be coming soon, the impacts of the drought can be monitored and managed.

In the midst of one of the most severe droughts on record since the 1930s Dust Bowl, California’s current water shortage has cost the state $2.2 billion and put 17,000 agricultural workers out of a job this year, according to a report published by NBC news.

            “Drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more, resulting in water shortage causing impacts on vegetation, animals and people,” according to the National Weather Service [NWS].

            81.49 percent of the state of California is currently in extreme or exceptional drought, the two highest categories on the United States Drought Monitor.

            While ranching families are panicking, losing grazing capacity, profit and looking for new forage options, the National Drought Mitigation Center [NDMC] proposed a solution to help ranching families as well as others affected, to be able to monitor the drought and its impacts at a state and national level. At the University of California Davis on November 7 2014, the NDMC shared the importance of the United States Drought Monitor [USDM] and how local citizens can have an impact in their area that may affect the map’s data selection.  

            The USDM was established in 1999 as a weekly map of drought conditions that is produced jointly by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture and the NDMC at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The map provides a general summary of the current drought conditions by measuring the severity of the drought through five percentiles: D0 abnormally dry, D1 moderate drought, D2 severe drought, D3 extreme drought, and the highest category, D4 exceptional drought.

            “We need the current data compared to long term rankings and compared to historical averages,” said NDMC Climatologist Brian Fuchs, “Percentile ranking is very important because those directly relate to the different drought intensity categories.”

            The data is collected for the map by local experts such as local NWS and USDA offices, State Climate offices, the State Drought Task Force, University Extension and regional climate centers. After the data is collected it is then used by the USDA to trigger disaster declarations and eligibility for low interest loans, the Farm Service Agency to determine eligibility for their Livestock Forage Program and the Internal Revenue Service for tax deferral on forced livestock sales during drought.

NDMC Climatologist Brian Fuchs also encourages people to report regional, state and local data on their own that the NDMC may have missed in its data collection.

            “A lot of the times we are focusing on these larger data sets; weather and climate data, hydraulic data, hydrology data, reservoir, data, soil moisture and a lot of it’s on a national scale,” Fuchs said. “We also know there’s some regional, state and local data available that sometimes doesn’t get pushed out in front of us.”

            Fuchs encourages the public to look at conditions such as lake and reservoir levels, water availability, supply and quality, plants and wildlife, agriculture, ground water and well information, natural landscape conditions, seasonal data, forage shortages and to compare the results to long term data, then report them to the USDM.

            “Nature does a good job telling us when something is wrong,” he said. “We start hearing about a lot of animals coming into town for water or food, these are the types of impacts we are looking for. If this is happening in your area, it really helps fill in the story about what’s going on with the drought.”

            Fuchs presented a variety of different methods the public can use to report their impacts to the authors of the USDM, such as using their weekly message board, the USDM Listerv. On this feed, local experts can view the drafts of the map and provide local feedback into the process.

            Similar to the USDM Listerv is the Drought Impact Reporter. Here, anyone can submit a report and describe an impact they are seeing on their ranch or in their area and let the USDM know how long it’s been affecting their property. The drought impact reporter can be found at droughtreporter.unl.edu along with an archive of drought related impacts listed since 2005.

            “Basically at that point in time we weren’t understanding how important impacts were at that time because nobody was keeping track of them,” said Fuchs, referring to years before 2005, “They would come and go but there was no archive. The drought impact reporter is really that archive.”

            Daily precipitation ratings can also help measure the impact of a drought in the area. The Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network [CoCoRaHS] is a non-profit community based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds that works together to measure precipitation, according to CoCoRaHS.org. The public can participate in the USDM’s data flow by going online to their main website and submitting their daily precipitation ratings.

            Other resources that are available to the public are the California/Nevada Drought Monitoring Group and the California State Climate Office. If there is a significant impact occurring, state climatologist Mike Anderson can be contacted directly by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone: (916)-574-2830.

            If all methods of contact fail, Fuchs encourages the public to contact the authors of the USDM directly at his personal email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , by phone: 402-427-6775, or using the USDM’s generic email: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

            “The authors love to hear from people,” he said. “Our ears are open; we’re willing to come and hear what’s going on and take suggestions.”

            The drought monitor serves as a way for the public to observe the ongoing drought and to report their current impacts. However, many ranching families are still struggling to cope with the effects of the drought.

            After Fuchs’ presentation, UC Davis Project Scientist Leslie Roche reported on how the drought is affecting ranching families and some of the management practices they are using to cope with the current situation.

            Her report was based on a study conducted in 2011 that featured 500 surveys of ranching families across the state of California and continued with102 follow up interviews a year later.

            “One of the things we were trying to look at is how people enhance their individual abilities to cope with and adapt to drought,” Roche said. “These operations of course have evolved over time and each generation has learned from the past’s experience.”

            In her surveys, Roche asked her interviewees what they were doing in response to the drought. 70 percent said they reduced the size of their cattle herd, 69 percent purchased alternative feed, 39 percent used government assistance programs and 39 percent weaned calves early.

            She also asked respondents about the things that impacted their ranches the most severely. 77 percent of the people surveyed said that their most severe impact was lost grazing capacity, 62 percent said reduced winter forage availability and 55 percent said they lost profit.

            In result, Roche found that families with well-prepared management plans were most successful with coping with impacts of the drought. These plans can include having diverse land resource ownership types, goal setting, focusing on forage production, access to information sources that they highly value and a long history of knowledge about learning how to manage a ranch in disaster situations.

 “Having a large toolbox of both proactive and reactive practices are really essential for operations to adapt with and cope with challenges such as drought,” she said.



California Rangeland Trust Awards Conservationist of the Year to the Stone Family of Yolo Land and Cattle Company


Sacramento, CA – October 20, 2014 – California Rangeland Trust awarded the Stone Family of Yolo County the Conservationist of the Year Award at their yearly fundraiser, A Western Affair. The Rangeland Trust awards this honor to an individual or family that models sustainable conservation practices on ranchlands.

For decades, the Stone Family has been blazing a trail in preserving natural resources and wildlife habitats on their 7,500-acre ranch, Yolo Land and Cattle Company, while being true innovators in their cattle ranching operation.  The family includes Scott and Karen Stone; their sons, Austin and Carson; and Scott’s brother, Casey, his wife, Angela, and their daughter, Keeley, and son, Wilson.  Most notably, Scott's and Casey’sfather, Hank, was honored posthumously in front of emotional guests of the event.

From left: Austin Stone; Nita Vail, CEO, California Rangeland Trust; Karen Stone and Scott Stone.

Hank Stone purchased their ranch, near Sacramento, with a partner in 1976 and established a practice of conservation leadership that has continued for decades. His sons, Scott and Casey, later joined him in managing the business with the foundation of sustainable ranching. Hank passed away in 2013. As the award was given to the family at the event, the crowd gave a standing ovation.

The Stones were recognized as models in applying sustainable land management practices, including planting and managing native grasses on their property, restoring stock ponds, implementing a rotational grazing plan, and enhancing riparian areas to improve water quality in the watersheds on their land. Much of their success has been by forging cooperative partnerships with organizations and agencies including U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, California Department of Forestry, Audubon California, University of California at Davis, and more.

“They have never been afraid to take risks and exhibit a true generosity of spirit in what they do for the community, working with numerous partners and agencies, and spearheading environmental education programs for urban youth,” said Nita Vail, CEO, California Rangeland Trust. “We celebrate the Stone family legacy, past, present and future in taking care of the land, so it can take care of us. Hank would be so proud of what his family has accomplished.”

The Conservationist of the Year award has been given for seven years to a member of the California ranching community that embodies responsible rangeland conservation. The winner in 2013 was Louise Hanson, in honor of her pioneering spirit and dedication to conserving the ranching heritage off the Gaviota Coast near Santa Barbara.

Rangeland Trust Raises Awareness at Sacramento’s Farm to Fork

   Farmers, growers and local restaurants posted tents along the roads of Sacramento’s Capital Mall Plaza and welcomed 30 – 35,000 visitors to the City’s second annual Farm to Fork Festival on Saturday, September 27th.

   The festival gave people of Sacramento a chance to experience the region’s local food production, consumption and sustainability first hand, while enjoying the live performances of various local country artists and sipping on fresh craft beers.

   Around 3:00 p.m., California Rangeland Trust volunteer Kelly Cash walked briskly up and down the tar paved streets, confronting curious visitors who were intrigued by the catchy  ‘Kiss my Grass’ pins she was handing to them.

   These pins symbolize California Rangeland Trust’s mission to conserve rangelands and grasslands and keep them from being taken over by development.

   “Rangelands cover more than half of California and a lot of that is grasslands,” said Rangeland Trust volunteer Bill Blackburn, “The preservation of that natural landscape, that’s important.”

   Organizations such as the Rangeland Trust held booths at the festival to raise awareness about their organization and its goals.

   “We are hoping to start reaching a different audience,” said Randy Gustavus, Rangeland Trust’s Director of Development. “We want to start educating people in the area, not only about where their food comes from but how they can take measures to help conserve rangeland and help do all those things that Farm to Fork is trying to do.”

   Rangeland Trust volunteers camped out at their booth until 6:00 p.m., informing passerby’s about the importance of land conservation and mingled with an audience of farmers, city dwellers, lawyers and other land conservationists.

   “It was a good opportunity to get in touch with people in one day’s time and hopefully we made a difference this year,” Gustavus said, who also attended the event last year.

   The idea for the Farm to Fork event began in 2012, with Mayor Kevin Johnson proclaiming Sacramento as America’s Farm to Fork Capital. In 2013 a series of events were created to celebrate this honor.

   “Restaurants and many chefs in the area took that as an opportunity to celebrate the culinary aspects and partner with a lot of our farmers and distributers to share the story of where our food comes from,” said Kelly Rogers, Farm to Fork Program Manager.       

   The Farm to Fork event was led by the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau and is a part of four signature events, including a tractor parade, a legends of wine event and a Gala dinner on the deck of Tower Bridge.

   Rogers hopes to continue the Farm to Fork tradition and continue to educate local city dwellers about the food they eat.

   “I want for this to be ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road and for there to be families that come here every year to celebrate,” she said. “I want every generation of kids to know where their food comes from.”

Strawlege Provides Drought Releif for Ranchers

By Jenni Perez, Rangeland Trust Communications Intern


Northern California ranchers are the key players in helping the California Rangeland Trust protect what matters in California. However, the drought has made the ranchers’ job of providing resources to the community a little tougher this year compared to previous years. The severe drought California is facing has caused less forages  to grow, resulting in less feed for livestock. Since the abundance of feed has decreased, prices for left over and alternative feeds have increased making it harder for ranchers to feed their animals. If ranchers don’t feed their animals, then they will starve, die and no longer provide food for the state of California. Rice farmers and UC Cooperative Extension Researchers may have a solution.

Their proposed solution, “Strawlage”, which is “the process of putting up forage under high (45-65) percent moisture and thus not allowing the drawing that allows for a significant loss in digestibility,” according to UC Cooperative Extension Research.

Rice straw has the most nutrients when it first exits the harvester. When it dries, it loses about 20 percent of its nutrients explained Glenn Nader, UC Cooperative Extension Advisor at a presentation in Willows last week.

Henry Smith, a rice farmer from Willows, and many others like him, bale the straw immediately after it exits the harvester to produce Strawlege. After he bales the straw, he stacks about 54 bales on a 25 x 100 foot tarp and covers them with another 100 x 40 foot tarp. The tarps allow the bales to retain about 45-65 percent of the moisture they would lose two to four days after harvest, producing a product that is easily digested by livestock.

“Our problem right now is that our feed prices are so expensive,” said Josh Davies, Livestock Range and Natural Resource Advisor for Glenn County. “We needed to either sell the cows or find a way to supplement the feed, so that’s where Strawlage comes in. It’s typically rice straw that isn’t needed or it’s such a low quality that it’s not going to be eaten anyway.”

Strawlage can be substituted for other feed sources and has a crude protein value ranging from 2-7 percent, according to research conducted by Glenn Nadar, UC Cooperative Extension Advisor. A non lactating beef cow requires a diet of 7 percent crude protein [CP] and while most Strawlage feed is at 5 percent, the CP of the straw can be increased with higher nitrogen fertilization on the rice, Nadar said.

Nadar and other Cooperative Extension researchers have been studying the production of Strawledge since 1999 with funds from the California Rice Research Board. Nadar presented their research at the Memorial Hall in Willows, California on July 29 where he revealed the team’s upcoming goals.

“Our general objective for the research is to investigate the options for a better use of rice straw as an animal feed,” Nadar said.

Strawlage has a brownish green and slimy appearance that is not very appealing to the human eye. However, 15 years of research conducted by the UC Cooperative Extension has confirmed that it does substitute for a safely digestible livestock feed.

“I was surprised!” exclaimed rancher Ron LaGrande who recently began feeding his cattle Strawlage. “My cows never did spend much time looking at rice straw, maybe they were a little spoiled I don’t know, but they ate the stuff.”

Strawledge provides another feed option that ranchers can use for their livestock when current feed is running short and prices are rising.




Shop AmazonSmile to Help Support California’s Ranches

Ranches provide California’s most important resources: clean air, clean water, Western culture, wildlife habitat and local food supply. Rangeland Trust protects these resources by placing conservation easements on the land which insure that it can never be subdivided or lost to development. Shop Amazon and you can help our organization protect these treasured open spaces with no more than a few clicks on your computer screen!

AmazonSmile is a private (501) (c) (3) foundation created by Amazon.com which provides a simple and automatic way to support your favorite organization every time you shop, according to AmazonSmile. While shopping on the site, 0.5 percent of your purchase price will be donated to the eligible charitable organization of your choice.

Here’s how you can help:

1)      Visit Smile.Amazon.com

2)      Create an account or log in using information from your existing Amazon account.

3)      Next, select California Rangeland Trust as your preferred charitable organization

4)      Continue on with your usual shopping endeavors.

There are tens of millions of products eligible for donations that are marked ‘eligible’ on their detail pages, according to AmazonSmile. These products are not currently accessible on an i-phone app or kindle; however while shopping on your computer, you wouldn’t notice a difference in prices, products, selection or shopping features. The only difference is that you will be able to support Rangeland Trust and shop for your favorite items simultaneously.

“Your contributions will help us protect what matters to you and all Californians,” said Michael Delbar, Chief Operating Officer at Rangeland Trust.

AmazonSmile provides a simple and easy way for you to participate in conserving California’s ranches and protecting the legacy of the families who have taken care of them for generations.


Tim Koopmann is every bit as protective of the endangered California tiger salamander that live on his 850-acre ranch in Sunol as he is of the cattle. Scott Stone is a loyal steward of thousands of acres of native grasslands and riparian habitats he helped restore on his beef ranch in Yolo County. Jack Varian is a fierce guardian of the water that runs over his V6 Ranch in Parkfield, which feeds headwaters of the Salinas River and Monterey Bay. These ranches and the ranchers who protect them are safeguarding the last, best remaining habitats in California.

More than ever, ranches are where the Golden State’s most cherished open spaces lie. To protect their land from development, Koopmann, Stone and Varian have all placed conservation easements on their properties through the California Rangeland Trust. A conservation easement ensures their working ranchlands can never be subdivided or lost to development. More than 277,000 acres of private lands have been protected through the California Rangeland Trust since 1998.

“Many people don’t realize how critical ranches are to California’s environment,“ said Nita Vail, Chief Executive Officer, California Rangeland Trust.

“By protecting private ranchlands through conservation easements, we ensure that California’s most important resources are protected as well. That includes the water we drink, food we eat, air we breathe and wildlife we treasure.“


Ranches are critical to watersheds

Just how important are private ranches to California’s environment?  Consider that more than 90 percent of California’s drinking water runs over ranches like Varian’s V6 Ranch. Even through our current drought, Varian is taking every step to manage the water on his land that feeds critical watersheds. He also is enacting conservation methods, such as managed grazing, to protect natural habitats as well.

“For me, taking caring of the land and the watersheds is a moral responsibility that includes all the critters like raccoons, deer, trees and flowers and microscopic organisms that dwell below the soil surface,” Varian said.


Ranches provide habitat for endangered and threatened species

Like Varian, Koopmann guards the water on his land as well as some important endangered species. Surprisingly, 95 percent of federally threatened or endangered species spend at least part of their lives on private ranches like the Koopmann Ranch. Koopmann has spent years not only studying wildlife on his ranch, but restoring habitat as well, working with biologists, government entities and universities to help endangered species, like the California red-legged frog and Callippe Silverspot Butterfly, thrive. He easily recounts draining a 107-acre pond filled with invasive bass and bullfrogs and restoring it to its original state, only to see a proliferation of red-legged frogs the next year.  


“The ranching community has a natural resource ethic as stewards of the land,” said Koopmann. “We have a real respect for wildlife and its resources. It’s our job to perpetuate habitats for them.”


Ranches are much of California’s open space

At the Stones’ Yolo Land and Cattle Company in Yolo County, sustainably managing their ranch has become a primary mission, in addition to a cattle business. For them, maintaining their ranch involves restoring native habitats, installing solar pumps, practicing managed grazing, and establishing a watershed protection system.

“We are caretakers of a working, functioning landscape that is a habitat for wildlife, watersheds, and livestock. It’s our passion,” said Stone. “The conservation easement has given us long-term sense of protection, knowing it will remain as it is for our family and for future generations. We live for this land.”


More than 105,000 acres of grazing lands were lost to urbanization between 1990 and 2004 and 750,000 more are in danger of being lost by 2040. While the California Rangeland Trust has been able to help many families conserve their ranches, more funding is needed to help the more than 100 families and 500,000 acres awaiting protection on the organization’s waiting list.


“These ranches are the last frontier for California’s environment,” said Vail. “Through conservation easements, we are taking care of our environment, our agricultural economy and generations of families that have managed these cherished open spaces.”

Wanted: More Young People For an Old U.S. Industry

Our Board member and Fund Development Committee Chairman Daniel Sinton was featured in a great article by CNBC on getting the next generation of ranchers involved in Agriculture. 

You can read the full story on their website.

Daniel ranches with his dad and grandfather. All three generations were featured in this CNBC news story. Watch the video below.

Additional information