James Ranch Conservation Project

March 8, 2024

For Immediate Release:

Mendocino Land Trust Obtains Funding For A Conservation Easement On The Historic James Ranch

Mendocino Land Trust (MLT) and a local landowner have taken another step to protect the future!

In partnership with the landowners of the James Ranch, MLT received a Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) grant. The grant will make it possible to acquire a conservation easement (CE) that will protect almost 1,300 acres of working ranchland west of Willits. CE’s are a voluntary tool used to conserve land. MLT and the landowners of the James Ranch were fortunate to be awarded this SALC grant.

MLT Executive Director Conrad Kramer says that both he and the landowners are “overjoyed” with the grant and “extremely grateful” to the California’s Strategic Growth Council (SGC) and the SALC team.

In December 2023, the SGC approved more than $116 million in grants to protect 50,500 acres of agricultural land through its SALC program. The investments are part of the ninth round of the SALC program’s efforts to protect agricultural lands, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen rural economies.

Included in this grant are the funds to conserve the unique and picturesque James Ranch through acquisition of a conservation easement which allows the landowners to continue to own and manage the ranch.

“This is MLT’s first SALC acquisition grant,” Kramer said, “and we look forward to working with the landowners and the SALC team to protect this important and historic ranch.”

The conservation easement will protect the working agricultural lands in perpetuity and help accelerate progress towards California’s Natural and Working Lands goal to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030.

The Strategic Growth Council’s SALC Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities. ​SALC complements investments made in urban areas with the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, development of agricultural land strategy plans, and other mechanisms that result in GHG reductions and a more resilient agricultural sector. The Department of Conservation works in cooperation with the Natural Resources Agency and the SGC to implement the program. 

MLT believes it is fitting that the James Ranch was selected for protection. The ranch has been in commercial agricultural production since the 1800s. The ranch is comprised of mixed Douglas fir and redwood forests, oak woodlands, annual grassland, and mixed chaparral. The ranch was also once the location of Sherwood, a small town along the railway. Sherwood boasted a hardware store and general store.

Much of the history of this ranch is known through the stories told by the late Stella (Steen) James, an independent frontier-woman who owned and worked the ranch for decades alongside her husband, Edgar. This SALC grant is an opportunity for Stella’s great nephew Kevin and his wife Judy to realize Stella’s goal of conserving the ranch.

You can read more about Stella’s fascinating history on MLT’s website, click here. If you are interested in learning about agricultural conservation or conserving working lands, please contact Sean O’Rourke at