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Conservation at Paicines Ranch
It is our belief that it is past time to move on from a paragidm that sees land as "conserved" only when people and animals are removed from it. There is a huge opportunity to regenerate working landscapes while producing food, fuel, and fiber if management is creative and works in partnership with nature.
At the Paicines Ranch we manage our landscape for biodiversity, water cycling, nutrient cycling, and an effective energy cycle. We graze approximately 7000 acres using holistic planned grazing. We are constantly working to improve the health of the ecosystem using the tools of holistic management and holistic planned grazing (www.holisticmanagement.org). We start each grazing season with a plan for how the animals, currently cattle and sheep, will move across the landscape over the course of the season. They are generally moved to fresh pasture every few days, which keeps animal condition high and gives the perennial grasses and other plants recovery time between grazings. We view the animals as our most important land management tool, whiich also creates healthy protein, and improves our financial sustainability.
One of the ways we think about our management is that we are managing for chaos, or diversity. For example, we graze paddocks at different times each year, and leave different heights of standing grass in different areas at the end of each grazing season. The more diversity we can create in habitat, the more diversity of plants and animals we would expect over time. We try to maximize different types of habitat, and the edges between habitats. We monitor our bird population as a tool to understanding overall biodiversity.
We are constantly monitoring the landscape to determine whether we are moving towards or away from our goals. We expect that over time based on our grazing planning, we will move from an almost entirely annual grassland to one with a higher number of perennial grasses, and hopefully more young oak trees. We monitor for both of these outcomes, and have seen dramatic increases in our native perennial grass numbers over the last 3 years.
We were one of the first ranches in California to participate in the Soil Carbon Challenge. We took our first baseline readings in the spring of 2011, and will monitor again in 2014, 2017 and 2021. The goal is to determine whether or not our management practices can increase soil carbon, and to share our results with other land managers around the world. Learn more about the Soil Carbon Challenge at www.soilcarboncoalition.org.