Conservation grazing at La Honda Creek Preserve by Frances Freyberg.

Conservation Grazing

Conservation grazing at La Honda Creek Preserve by Frances Freyberg.

Conservation grazing is one of many land management tools Midpen uses to achieve conservation goals, such as protecting biodiversity and enhancing habitat.

Our conservation grazing program began in 2007, and now encompasses approximately 9,000 acres leased (approximately 6,500 acres of which are accessible to periodic grazing) to seven small-scale ranchers.

    Natural Resources Protection and Restoration
    Natural Resources
    illustration of the sun setting over hills

    Conservation Grazing Management Policy

    Midpen's Resource Management Policies include specific conservation grazing management policies that are intended to supplement and complement the Agricultural Policies in the Coastside Protection Service Plan.

    Recently, Midpen amended this conservation grazing management policy to include two specific concepts for safeguarding native wildlife while addressing the predation of livestock:

    1. Reimbursement for Cattle Loss and Reduced Rent Rate:  Economic compensation for conservation grazing tenants experiencing livestock loss due to predation
    2. Research of Safe Livestock and Wildlife Protection Measures:  Supporting research on the safe means for reducing wildlife and livestock conflicts that remain protective of both livestock and local wildlife. 


    Midpen’s Conservation Grazing Program is a collaboration with small-scale, local ranchers accomplishing multiple goals that align with our Coastal mission:

    • Maintain and restore native grasslands and their unique biodiversity
    • Manage vegetation to reduce wildland fire risk
    • Support agriculture on the San Mateo County Coast

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    Conservation Grazing Science

    Midpen is using the best available peer-reviewed science on conservation grazing in coastal California to inform our conservation grazing program.

    An independent Science Advisory Panel conducted extensive review of peer-reviewed scientific work regarding rangeland management, with a focus on grazing in coastal California. The report is available below. 

    Coastal Grassland Conservation

    Coastal grasslands are one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, and one of the rarest. They evolved with regular disturbances historically provided by now extinct wildlife herds and Native American burning practices. Without these periodic disturbances, now provided in part by appropriately managed conservation grazing, native grasslands and their biodiversity can be lost to introduced plant species, shrubs and forest.

    Conservation grazing in coastal grasslands supports the management and recovery of endangered, threatened and special-status species that need grassland habitat including San Francisco garter snake, American badgers, burrowing owls and California red-legged frogs.


    Management and Monitoring

    Well-managed conservation grazing requires proper infrastructure and monitoring plans. A custom Rangeland Management Plan is developed specifically for each area where conservation grazing is considered an appropriate management tool to maximize biodiversity benefits and protect natural resources by controlling number and type of livestock, grazing duration and location restrictions. 

    Appropriately placed water troughs and wildlife-friendly fencing allow for livestock rotation in areas where conservation grazing is desired and beneficial. Rangeland monitoring by Midpen staff has shown these grasslands continue to support a rich assemblage of native grasses and wildflowers.