Nelson Cattle Ranch
Merced & Mariposa Counties
Preserving rangeland, habitat & history
2002, California Rangeland Trust and The Nature Conservancy completed the
purchase of a conservation easement protecting a historic cattle operation on
the Nelson Cattle Ranch near Planada in Merced
and Mariposa Counties. The 3,861-acre easement on the
Nelson Cattle Ranch is home to important grasslands and vernal pool habitat.
California Rangeland Trust holds the easement by prior arrangement with the
owners, the Nelson Cattle Company. The ranch's habitat includes pristine vernal
pools, unfragmented open space and unimpaired wildlife corridors. The ranch was
settled during the Gold Rush by James Cunningham, a sea captain who ventured
into the Central Valley while waiting for his wife to arrive from England.
The original adobe ranch house, built in 1850, is still in use. The Nelson
Cattle Ranch is located on Highway 140, a major route to Yosemite,
and is adjacent to three other ranches already protected by conservation
easements. Together, the four ranches cover approximately 4,000 acres of
productive rangeland and dense clusters of vernal pools. The Nelson Cattle
Ranch project shows how flexibility in a mixed-use, productive agricultural
operation can also protect and even enhance an environment with a multitude of
resource values. Major contributors to this project include the California
Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.