California Rangeland Trust has a strong working presence in the San Francisco Bay Area that promotes increased appreciation for rangelands and the contributions of private ranching to conservation. With its Mediterranean climate, the Bay Area is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. With only 5% of California’s land area, among all of the habitats found in the state, more than a third of them can be found in the Bay Area’s nine counties. The strong economy of the region has also made the Bay Area one of the six most important biodiversity hot spots in the nation. The Bay Area includes the nine counties touching San Francisco Bay. It is known worldwide as one of the most innovative, culturally diverse, and prosperous areas anywhere in the world.
What is often overlooked is that nearly half of the Bay Area’s land mass is rangeland, or about 1.9 million acres according to the Conservation Lands Network and the Rangeland Trust’s own mapping. Rangeland is defined as land that produces vegetation suitable for livestock grazing. Significantly, of the 1.9 million acres, about 1.35 million acres (70%) are privately owned rangelands.
The Spanish missions introduced cattle and sheep ranching to the Bay Area by the late 1700’s. Consequently, as Dr. Lynn Huntsinger of U.C. Berkeley often points out, many of the habitats we value have evolved with livestock grazing for over 200 years. Thus, many habitats and species absolutely depend upon continued grazing and management by ranchers on both private and publicly owned rangelands. The environmental community has come to recognize the value of grazing to reduce fire hazard and to promote and maintain plant and wildlife diversity.
Recognizing the vital role Bay Area rangelands play in wildlife habitat, watersheds and, very importantly, food production, a number of funders have graciously helped finance the Rangeland Trust’s efforts to keep private working ranches and ranchers in the Bay Area. As a fifth generation Bay Area rancher and Rangeland Trust Board Member myself, I sincerely appreciate these funders: S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation, and the Smart Foundation, all which specifically support the Rangeland Trust’s Bay Area conservation efforts. I also acknowledge and appreciate the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund for providing the original Rangeland Trust Bay Area funding.
The Rangeland Trust collaborates with other organizations to promote private rangeland values and conservation opportunities in the Bay Area. These include San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Coastal Conservancy, Alameda County Resource Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Blue Ridge – Berryessa Conservation Partnership, Bay Area Open Space Council, California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, and Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. Valuable rangeland science support is provided by Dr. Stephanie Larson and Sheila Barry, University of California Cooperative Extension; Dr. Lynn Huntsinger, Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management, University of California Berkeley; and Dr. Stuart Weiss, Creekside Center for Earth Observations.
Rangeland Trust’s Bay Area staff representative is Nancy Schaefer, who resides locally and has extensive experience with Bay Area conservation. Her role is quite challenging, covering all nine counties to advocate and support private rangeland conservation efforts. Using conservation easements to conserve private ranches is a major re-direction in the Bay Area’s conservation efforts, in contrast to the large amount of planning and funding used by public agencies to acquire ranches. With Nancy’s diligence and dedication, board member support, and the valuable contributions of those noted here, the California Rangeland Trust is becoming an active leader in Bay Area rangeland conservation projects.
Congratulations to Darrel on being named 2013 Livestock Man of the Year by the California Chamber of Commerce. Your work to improve and expand our industry is greatly appreciated by many. We feel honored to work with you day in and day out to conserve rangeland throughout California. To you, we tip our hats!