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.