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Coalition Heritage – It all Started at a BBQ!

Coalition Heritage – It Started at a BBQ!

 The BBQ

Why does the Coalition focus on privately-owned rangelands?

What is the Coalition’s geographical focus? Why was it defined in this way?

What and Who is a Coalition Signatory?

 What do California Cattlemen’s Association, Defenders of Wildlife, California Farm Bureau Federation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Sierra Foothills Audubon all have in common? Privately owned ranches and rancher stewardship!

Steve Thompson, then US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Southwest Region Director and Assistant Region Director, Paul Henson were criticized by diverse conservation organizations for not doing enough to protect the most threatened habitat in California. He challenged them to provide him a general description of the land area they had the most concern about.  When they did, he pointed out that their area of concern is primarily privately owned ranches.  To promote their conservation goals they would have to communicate with the ranchers.

Several important events had recently occurred that involved ranching with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Tim Koopmann, an Alameda County developer, California Rangeland Trust (which is led by ranchers) and California Department of Fish and Game had recently negotiated a mitigation easement at Koopmann Ranch for California Tiger Salamander (CTS) that recognized the normal ranching activities required to sustain the habitat and salamander. FWS was proposing to list the CTS as endangered and was negotiating with the California Cattlemen’s Association (Noelle Cremers, staff lead) to develop the first 4d exemption* to the ESA. FWS acknowledged the importance of grazing and ranching to conserving their habitat, and the 4d exempts a list of agreed ‘routine ranching activities’ from the take provision of ESA. When FWS listed the CTS Steve Thompson, aware of the Koopmann easement asked Tim to host a gathering of diverse organizations and media to announce the listing and to demonstrate how essential ranching is to the CTS and its habitat.

As a result of this collaboration Steve asked Tim to subsequently host a gathering of ranching and conservation organizations and agencies to expand the conversation about ranching and wildlife habitat. The organizations listed below came together in August, 2005 for a BBQ. They explored what they had in common and how they might communicate and work together to keep ranchers ranching and the conservation values intact and perhaps enhanced in the region. The Koopmann Ranch story* about the CTS easement, estate tax burden, pond restoration permitting hurdles, and development threats set the stage for meaningful discussion. Several conservation groups explained how they had come to realize the role of ranching and grazing for habitat.  Ed Pandolfino noted that Sierra Foothills Audubon’s own studies showed that grazing was essential to grassland bird habitat, contrary to its presumptions. All agreed the major threats to ranching at that time were regulatory burdens and loss of ranches to development. They agreed on a geographical focus area and a general strategy that acknowledges that ranching viability and stewardship are critical to sustain ranching and those rangelands. Within a few months the Rangeland Resolution was approved and the first Summit was being planned.

Founding entities: Alameda County Resource Conservation District, Butte Environmental Council, California Cattlemen’s Association; California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Oaks Federation, California Rangeland Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, Institute for Ecological Health, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sierra Foothills Audubon, The Nature Conservancy,  US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wildlife Conservation Board. These individuals and entities continue to participate in the Coalition with leadership and resources, for which the Coalition is grateful.   Read about our Roots.

* The 4d rule exempts routine ranching practices from the prohibitions of the ESA, including taking, harming and harassing listed species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized that ranching activities including grazing and maintenance of stock ponds benefit the California Red-Legged Frog and the California Tiger Salamander.

* Since 2005 Koopmann Ranch has acquired two more mitigation easements held by the California Rangeland Trust that are very compatible with ranching.

   Why does the Coalition focus on privately-owned rangelands?

       “The undersigned recognize the critical importance of California’s privately owned rangelands particularly that significant portion that encircle the Central Valley….These lands provide important ecosystem services and are the foundation for the ranching industry that owns them;

“These rangelands include a rich and varied landscape of grasslands, oak woodlands, vernal pools, riparian areas and wetlands which support numerous imperiled species, many native plants once common in the Central Valley, and are home to the highest diversity and density of wintering raptors anywhere in North America;

“These rangelands are often located in California’s fastest-growing counties and are at significant risk of conversion to development and other uses;

“These rangelands and the species that rely on these habitats largely persist today due to the positive and experienced grazing and other land stewardship practices of the ranchers that have owned and managed these lands and are committed to a healthy future for their working landscapes;

“These rangelands are a critical foundation of the economic and social fabric of California’s ranching industry and rural communities, and will only continue to provide this important working landscape for California’s plants, fish and wildlife if private rangelands remain in ranching.” (From the Rangeland Resolution)

The Coalition is the only organization that brings together ranchers, environmentalists and government entities to conserve and enhance the ecological values and economic viability of California’s working rangelands. Its work is made possible by individuals and organizations that share the working land and community values expressed in the Rangeland ResolutionBecome involved, and let’s work together!


 What is the Coalition’s geographical focus? Why was it defined in this way?

      “The undersigned recognize the critical importance of California’s privately owned rangelands, particularly that significant portion that encircles the Central Valley and includes the adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands, including the Sierra foothills and the interior coast ranges. These lands support important ecosystems and are the foundation for the ranching industry that owns them.”

     “These rangelands are at significant risk of conversion.”

     “They persist today due to the positive and experienced grazing and other land stewardship practices of the ranchers that have owned and managed these lands and are committed to a healthy future for their working landscapes” (from the Rangeland Resolution)

This area of interest includes nearly 30 million acres, roughly one-third of the state. It encompasses the vast majority of California’s remaining grassland and oak woodlands, and ranches in this area are predominantly privately-owned.  The founders recognized the scientific support for private lands ranching in this area and agreed to work together to “protect and enhance (this) rangeland landscape.”  Coalition education and outreach, as well as research interests often include opportunities that illustrate and explain the complex business, regulatory and social interrelationships of the statewide and global ranching industry. (The Coalition’s focus area map is on the website. It was developed a couple of years after the Coalition was formed.)

What and Who is a Coalition Signatory?

 Signatory organizations affirm the principles and goals contained in the Resolution.  The Signatories ARE the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition.  All support provided by them is important and appreciated.  Signatories are encouraged to share with others the goals, objectives and activities of the Rangeland Coalition and are expected to integrate the Resolution into their own work and outreach.

Who are the current Signatories?  Get acquainted with them and their own rangeland work, too.  Invite them to participate in your programs.  Is your organization’s name included?   Becoming a Signatory is the first step in taking action to support and conserve our precious and threatened rangeland resources and the ranching community. It’s simple.