Pictured is a view of some of the grass and oak trees that provide habitat and support wildlife on the Sans Topo Ranch in southern San Benito County, which will be preserved forever with a conservation easement acquired by the California Rangeland Trust. Photo: Courtesy of California Rangeland Trust

The Sans Topo Ranch in San Benito County, which has been owned and managed by five generations of the Sans family since 1926, will be preserved in its current state forever after the California Rangeland Trust purchased a conservation easement for the property. 

The 4,500-acre conservation easement was completed with funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional support from USFWS Ventura Fish & Wildlife Office (VFWO), California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), and San Benito Working Landscapes Group, the California Rangeland Trust said in an announcement of the purchase this week. 

“It is very exciting knowing that the Sans Topo Ranch will be protected forever,” said Wendy Sans, one of the ranch owners. “It will remain a working ranch forever; this land is our family’s legacy.”  

The Sans Topo Ranch is located about 35 miles south of Hollister and two miles west of Highway 25, just outside Pinnacles National Park. 

The property supports three different types of habitat: annual grasslands, coastal shrubs and blue oak woodlands, according to the trust. The annual grasslands provide forage and habitat for the livestock and wildlife that inhabit the land. 

The diverse plant population on the Sans Topo Ranch provides habitat for the many species of wildlife found on the property, the trust added. The special status species that have been documented on the property include California condor, American badger, California tiger salamander, mountain lion, vernal pool fairy shrimp and western spadefoot toad.

“We are in the business of protecting and maintaining the health of the Golden State’s rangelands for the benefit of all Californians,” Michael Delbar, CEO of the Rangeland Trust explained. “It is because of the top-notch stewardship of the ranching community that Californians have access to local food, clean air, fresh water, and beautiful views. We are proud to partner with dedicated ranching families, like the Sans, that not only care for their livestock, but also the land and wildlife alike.”

The Sans family has seen many changes to the surrounding area over the years, and chose to conserve the property to ensure the land that they have managed for nearly 100 years will never be lost to similar development, according to the trust. 

The family runs a stocker cattle operation on the property. They graze the property in rotated sections to ensure the land remains healthy and its diverse habitat remains viable long into the future, the trust said. Under the conservation easement secured by the California Rangeland Trust, the Sans will continue to own and manage the land for cattle grazing while ensuring the property will never be subdivided or developed. 

Since 1998, the California Rangeland Trust has protected more than 377,000 acres of open rangeland throughout the state. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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