Ranch in California's Golden Hills Safe from Development
MONTEREY, California, March 17, 2008 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy and a deep-rooted Monterey County ranching family have protected Dorrance Ranch, 4,300 acres located on Mt. Toro's northern ridge.

Working closely with the Dorrances, The Nature Conservancy purchased a conservation easement on the ranch to protect it from development, regardless of future ownership, and to ensure that the family's legacy is preserved.

Rising up from what novelist John Steinbeck characterized as "the Pastures of Heaven," Dorrance Ranch is a key part of Monterey's ranching heritage and one of the county's most familiar vistas.

"By employing sustainable ranching techniques over the years, and now ensuring that their property is protected for the long-term, The Dorrances have shown tremendous leadership," said Christina Fischer, Monterey area project director for The Nature Conservancy. "This is a wonderful example of how conservation and ranching can work together to help both human and natural communities thrive."

Part of the Dorrance Ranch in MontereyCounty (Photo courtesy California Wildlife Conservation Board)

The Dorrance family first settled the property in the 1940s and are considered pioneers for being early adopters of an approach to managing land resources in a way that builds biodiversity, improves grazing production and generates financial strength for the farmer or rancher.

The conservation easement, a legal agreement that runs with the land, builds on the Dorrances' stewardship of the property. The family will continue to own and operate the ranch as it has for three generations.

"Ranching can be a tough business, but we couldn't bear seeing our land sold and developed. It became clear that a conservation easement would keep the ranch in the family and preserve the landscape we've worked so hard to protect," said Steve Dorrance, one of three brothers who own the property.

Steve's son Drew, said, "This ranch is a part of me - partnering with organizations that share our same core values helps us preserve this beautiful land and will give me and future generations an opportunity to carry on the family legacy."

The Nature Conservancy paid six million dollars for the conservation easement, nearly a million less than its appraised value. The funding was provided by the Wildlife Conservation Board, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Big Sur Land Trust and private donations to the Nature Conservancy.

The difference between the appraised value and the purchase price represents a charitable gift by the landowners.

Dorrance Ranch and the surrounding lands are important to the health of the Monterey Bay Area, serving as the headwaters for streams in both Carmel and Salinas watersheds.

Its oak savannahs, ponds and grasslands provide habitat for native animals including the golden eagle, California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, burrowing owl and California condor.

The ranch forms a natural barrier between new development and the area's biologically-rich rangelands. It is also an important ecological stepping-stone within Monterey County's network of protected lands - allowing plant and animal species to move and adapt to new threats such as climate change.

"The Monterey Bay is recognized by residents and visitors alike as a globally unique and exceptional natural resource - a jewel of the County. Few realize, however, that the health of the Bay is inextricably linked to the health of the lands that surround it," said Robin Cox, acting director of science for The Nature Conservancy's California chapter.

"In terms of watershed health, clean water, clean air and other ecosystem services," said Cox, "individual decisions to protect private lands like the Dorrance Ranch benefit us all."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.