The Trust for Public Land Partners with Local Land Trusts to Protect Historic 540-acre Ranch in San Benito County
Today, The Trust for Public Land announced its acquisition of the iconic and historic Nyland property located across Highway 156 from the City of San Juan Bautista. The San Benito County property, less than a half mile from California’s largest mission, Mission San Juan Bautista and associated San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, is steeped in history. The 540-acres of oak studded grasslands, wetlands, and seasonal streams once supported the Indigenous Amah Mutsun people for thousands of years, before being taken to this mission and others as part of the Spanish conquest of California.
In response to the imminent sale of the property, The Trust for Public Land, with support from generous donors including funding from the Wildlife Conservation Network’s new California Wildlife Program, stepped in to purchase the property, providing time for local land trusts to work together to complete fundraising that ensures the permanent protection and stewardship of the land, including possible reconstruction of the barn and other grazing infrastructure.
The property, which is currently used for cattle grazing and was once the site of a land-grant era 40-room adobe, provides a scenic western gateway to San Juan Bautista and San Benito County for travelers along Highway 156, and cattle still graze on the property as they have for two hundred years. An array of native plants and wildlife can be found on the ranch, as well as a historic barn that marks a visitor’s arrival to San Juan Bautista. In addition to providing valuable wildlife habitat, the property contributes to an important regional wildlife corridor linking the Gabilan Mountains to the Santa Cruz Mountains a few miles to the north.
“Conservation opportunities like this are rare and could not be done without partners,” said Guillermo Rodriguez California State Director with The Trust for Public Land. “We are proud to be able to work with local land trusts to ensure the natural health and Indigenous, historic and agricultural heritage of this property are preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
“Conserving this property also marks the launch of a new Central Coast Climate Conservation Initiative led by The Trust for Public Land. Working with a diversity of partners, this initiative seeks to broaden traditional land protection objectives to include both equity and climate benefits,” Rodriguez added.
This acquisition is an important milestone in efforts of the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust and other project partners to permanently protect this property. Recognizing that the property’s 4th generation owners, the Nylands, were preparing to sell the ranch for estate purposes and shared the goal of protecting the property for public benefits, San Benito Agricultural Land Trust reached out to The Trust for Public Land for help in ensuring the property’s continued health and historic ranching uses.
The long-term vision for the property reflects this partnership and includes ownership of the land by the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust, with a conservation easement protecting wildlife habitat to be held by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, and a cultural easement providing access for Indigenous land stewardship, cultural and educational activities to be held by the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. The long-time cattle grazing lessee, 101 Equipment Company, will continue to graze the property.
“Permanent conservation of the ranch will ensure this land can support viable grazing operations that can contribute to our local economy, feed people, and protect our scenic views,” said Lynn Overtree, Executive Director of the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust. “We are excited about managing these 540 acres, which completes a chain of protected lands from Rocks Ranch to San Juan Bautista, and we are honored to continue the Nyland family’s loving stewardship legacy.”
“The Amah Mutsun people have lived in Popoloutchum, which is now recognized as San Benito County and beyond for millennia,” said Valentin Lopez, President of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust and Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “Our ancestors worked to fulfill their sacred obligation to take care of Mother Earth and all living things for thousands of years. Today we are happy to return to Popoloutchum through this Cultural Easement. This easement will ensure this land remains undeveloped and intact. We hope to share our traditional Indigenous knowledge and practices regarding land management with our partners and the public so we can all learn from each other.”
The property supports native habitat for numerous wildlife species, including raptors, migratory birds, and waterfowl along with mountain lion, black bear, fox and bobcat. Several rare species call the ranch home too including the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and the western pond turtle. The property also contributes to an important regional wildlife corridor linking the Gabilan Mountain Range to the Santa Cruz Mountains a few miles to the north. The project does not include lands north of Highway 156 known as “Nyland Ranch,” which are separately owned.
“The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is proud to be a part of the remarkable collaboration that is making this project possible,” said Sarah Newkirk, Executive Director of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. “Especially in such a critical wildlife corridor, the fact that all these partners can work together to secure the ecological, agricultural and cultural values this land represents – all in one place – is truly remarkable.”
“After 10 years leasing this ranch from the Nyland family, it will be a bit of a change for us, but we think we can have a compatible working relationship with the organizations involved,” said rancher Cole Warren of 101 Livestock Auction. “We’re glad the land won’t be converted to houses and that our cattle grazing operation will continue under the new ownership.”
The protection of the property also supports The Trust for Public Land’s broader climate conservation efforts in the region. In collaboration with JPMorgan Chase and other donors, The Trust for Public Land recently launched the Central Coast Climate Conservation Initiative. Through these efforts, The Trust for Public Land is working with community partners using an equity lens to identify conservation and restoration opportunities that demonstrate how natural climate solutions contribute to California’s ’30 by 30′ goal — a pledge to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030.
For more information on this land protection project, please contact Christy Fischer, Senior Project Manager at The Trust for Public Land at (831) 206-4319.
For more information on other members of the partnership, please contact Lynn Overtree at the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust at (831)-224-5059, Valentin Lopez at the Amah Mutsun Land Trust at (916) 743-5833, and Calah Pasley at the Land Trust for Santa Cruz County at (831)-429-6116 x304.
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
About the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust
The Mission of the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust (SBALT) is to conserve regionally significant lands that sustain productive agriculture, preserve open space, and maintain the rural character of the county. As San Benito County’s only local land trust, we permanently preserve over 6,700 acres of agriculture and open space lands through conservation easements and other tools, in partnership with local landowners. Learn more or donate at www.sanbenitolandtrust.org