Biodiversity makes our lives richer, and we recognize the value of diversity in our ecosystems. Biodiversity defines a healthy wilderness, feeds the heart and head, and provides the ecological machinery that converts sunlight into grass for happy cows.
The Ranch boasts a great deal of biological diversity, with steep gorges forested with Douglas-fir and oaks, a fertile coastal stream valley, and prolific grasslands and coastal scrub. The creek still has breeding steelhead, grasshopper sparrows are abundant, and perennial grasses are thick in some places.
White-crowned Sparrow Rick Lewis
We embrace the interconnectedness of our environmental systems. The water that runs throughout the Ranch supports downstream steelhead trout as well as local farmers. The riparian forests and grasslands support migratory birds that winter in Central and South America. We are part of a global ecological community and together we share the responsibility for stewarding biodiversity.
Our on-site science partner, Point Blue, conducts ecosystem studies to help us understand the ecological processes that we promote and measures the success of our management actions. Together, we strive to make the ranch a place where people can come together to learn as we tackle the challenges of defining sustainable land management amid a changing climate. Over the past three years, we have studied the entire ecosystem of the ranch, including birds, soils, streams, and grassland vegetation. We continue to value the science that guides our land management and measures our progress towards improving the ecological conditions at the ranch.
How do we maintain biodiversity while operating a successful grass-fed beef business?
Maintain healthy grasslands – Point Blue’s studies help us identify the important areas for grassland birds — such as grasshopper sparrows and savannah sparrows — which are indicators of healthy grasslands. We work together to adjust cattle grazing and timing to promote healthy populations of these birds.
California Reg-legged Frog
Protect water quality in Honsinger Creek – This is an important creek for steelhead trout, riparian birds, and the health of the estuary. We have identified stretches of the creek that are in need of improved water quality and wildlife habitat. We also conduct habit restoration in order to limit and carefully plan grazing in riparian areas.
Manage for sensitive to endangered species – Many species like red-legged frogs, San Francisco garter snakes, and steelhead trout are found on the ranch. We manage for these species by keeping cattle out of ponds when the frogs have eggs, and using cattle to help keep ponds open from vegetation. Additionally, we manage cattle to minimize soil erosion into the creek and increase the ability of the land to keep the water cool and flowing during late summer and fall.
Manage for healthy soils including water and carbon storage – Point Blue is studying vegetation and soil properties to help define where and how management can benefit soil, such as through the promotion of perennial grasses with deep root systems. We also work to improve soil health by reducing bare ground in our pastures, reducing soil erosion, and promoting the incorporation of litter into the soils.
Monitor as we go – Since 2010, Point Blue Conservation Science has conducted ecological monitoring on the ranch. These data help us track improvements and identify areas that need special management. They include: