California Rangeland Conservation Coalition

Posted: Mar 14, 2008
Written by: 
Britta Beckstead

 

Updated March 2011

Location: California’s Central Valley, surrounding foothills and interior Coast Ranges.

Collaborative Partners:Seventy-five different ranching industry groups, conservation organizations, and local, state and federal government agencies.

Objective: To catalyze partnerships between ranchers, environmentalists and government entities to conserve and enhance the ecological values and economic viability of California’s working rangelands for posterity. 

Challenges:  

  • Limited financial resources available to enhance and perpetually preserve working ranches.  
  • The high demand for ranchers who voluntarily want to place conservation easements on their property and limited funding to preserve these open spaces that are under threat of conversion.  
  • The large task of educating partners, agency staff and the millions of California residents on the benefits of maintaining privately owned working ranches for economical, environmental, and aesthetic benefits.

Project Summary:

California is losing tens of thousands of rangeland annually. The fact that ranching families own more than 22 million acres of rangeland in California has provided a unique opportunity for conservation efforts. Studies show that responsible grazing practices benefit all species of birds, most native plants, and the threatened vernal pool ecosystem.

In 2005, environmentalists, ranchers, and federal and state agencies drafted and signed a resolution to work to conserve the rangelands of the Central Valley, including the Sierra foothills and interior Coastal Ranges. The resolution set forth the following goals: keeping common species common private working landscapes, working to recover endangered species, providing incentives and reducing burdens to encourage stewardship on private ranchlands, increasing government and private funding, and educating the public about the benefits of grazing and ranching in the rangelands. One of the methods of preservation the group uses is providing funding for ranchers to keep their land under conservation easements, a voluntary and legally recorded agreement between the landowner and the Coalition that restricts the land to agricultural and open spaces uses.

Partners have gathered the past six January’s for an annual summit. The Summit is an opportunity to build trust, hear from researchers about the ecological benefits of grazing, and define the Rangeland Coalition’s action plan for the year. Kim Delfino of Defenders of Wildlife describes the reason for the Coalition as “we have a common threat...the conversion of rangeland to homes and strip malls and sprawl.”

Lessons Learned:

  • So much can be accomplished by increasing collaboration among partners 
  • Having a written resolution is very helpful in encouraging continued partnership and follow through

 Accomplishments:

The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition hosts annual summits in Sacramento and partners annually travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with agency leadership and members of Congress, discussing the Coalition, advocating the priorities of the partnership and emphasizing the importance of preserving working ranches. The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition was actively engaged in the development of the 2007 Farm Bill, specifically advocating the importance of the Grasslands Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

At the 6th Annual Summit in 2011, the Coalition decided to support reinstating subvention funding into the 2011-2012 budget for the California Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act). Currently, Coalition is developing offset protocols that will help to incentivize rangelands owners to participate in the carbon market. Members are going to Washington, D.C. in March to meet with elected officials and agencies to discuss the group’s priorities for the Farm Bill programs and to update them about the group’s work. 

Additional Resources:
The Coalition’s Website: http://www.carangeland.org

Contact Information: Pelayo Alvarez, Program Director, palvarez@defenders.org

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