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Ensuring Excellence in
Education, Resource Stewardship, and Visitor Experiences at

Pinnacles National Park

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                                                                         Finding common ground for ranching and conservation


 Background and Overview


The San Benito Working Landscapes Group (SBWLG) is a voluntary partnership among agencies, ranchers, and non-governmental organizations, which seeks to preserve and enhance the open, working landscapes of San Benito County and adjacent areas.  In recognition of the vital role that ranchers play in caring for San Benito County’s unique and valuable rangelands, the SBWLG connects land owners and managers to tools, events, and opportunities to support the economic viability of family ranches, and the stewardship of natural and cultural resources.  The SBWLG also connects willing landowners and conservation partners for on-the-ground range management or wildlife habitat improvement projects. 

The methods used by the Working Landscapes Group to achieve these goals include meetings, community events, on-line and person-to-person information-sharing, and development of a Landowners' Toolbox for San Benito County.  Tools for interested landowners include: technical assistance, habitat improvement grants or cost-share programs, permit coordination, and financial and/or marketing tools to improve the economic viability of San Benito ranching and farming operations.  Every aspect of the Landowners’ Toolbox project is voluntary.

Partners include:  Local ranchers and farmers, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, San Benito Agricultural Land Trust, San Benito Resource Conservation District, Bureau of Land Management, San Benito Firesafe Council, UC Cooperative Extension, Central Coast Rangeland Coalition, San Benito County Weed Management Area, Paicines Ranch, California Rangeland Trust, Rancher-to-Rancher Project, Pinnacles National Park, US Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Wildlife Program, The Nature Conservancy, Pinnacles Partnership, and others.

Funding: Pinnacles Partnership, a non-profit organization, was awarded a small grant in 2012 by the Rose Foundation’s California Wildlands Grassroots Fund to contract a project coordinator (Karminder Brown) and a “community connector” (Lisa Smith) to coordinate the activities and communications of the SBWLG.  Subsequent funding has been received from Pinnacles National Park, the Loma Prieta Resource Conservation District, and private donations.

Selected Accomplishments: 

  • Successfully competed for technical assistance from the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program to create the Landowner’s Toolbox for San Benito County (2012)
  • Conducted interviews with 13 south San Benito ranching families, to gain a better understanding of their perspectives, values, successes and challenges, and to gather suggestions for the Landowners’ Toolbox (2012-2013). A summary of the rancher interview questions and responses is available upon request.
  • Convened local stakeholder meeting to present and discuss responses and themes from rancher interviews (Mar 2013). 
  • Connected south County ranch owners to opportunity for free  well-water sampling (2013) and free non-lead ammunition (on-going)
  • Assisted in planning annual Continuing Education Seminar for Ranchers in Hollister, to address topics identified by local ranchers and conservation partners (2012-2015)
  • Connected landowner in Tres Pinos to volunteer labor for on-farm riparian habitat restoration project and facilitated local media coverage of the project (2013-14)

  • Helped facilitate grant applications to fund California Rangeland Trust conservation easements on two family ranches in south San Benito County (2014-15)
  • Co-sponsored oak tree shelter BBQ/workshop and connected several landowners to funding and technical assistance to protect oak tree seedlings (2014)
  • Completed draft Rancher’s Toolbox – a list of resources to provide area ranchers with quick access to information about programs and opportunities for ranching and conservation (Dec 2014)
  • Created San Benito Ranchers conversation group on  (2014)
  • Connected Tres Pinos Elementary School teacher to hands-on science opportunity for students at Nature Conservancy/STRAW restoration project on a San Benito County ranch (2015)

Ongoing Activities: 

  • Provide e-mail updates to landowners/managers and other partners on available tools, resources, events, and opportunities related to the protection and enhancement of working landscapes in San Benito County
  • Convene twice annual roundtable meeting of Working Landscape Group partners
  • Connect willing landowners and agencies/organizations around specific opportunities for sharing technical and financial resources to complete on-the-ground projects (e.g. invasive weed management, habitat improvements, conservation easements, etc.)


For more information or to sign up for e-mail updates, please contact:

Karminder Brown (


Revised_Oct_ 2015