The Ranch’s namesake, the Santa Rita Creek’s headwaters, starts on the ranch and feeds down into the Salinas River, flowing into the Pacific Ocean to nearby Monterey Bay, the nation’s largest marine sanctuary. This key watershed refreshes water supplies for communities such as Salinas and Monterey as well as providing habitat for the endangered steelhead—a fish species that requires clean, freshwater streams with access to the ocean. A lake on the ranch is the fourth largest privately owned reservoir in the county and a flock of Mallard ducks live on the lake year-round.

Santa Rita Ranch.

Our successful partnership with the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County (LCSLO) to acquire Santa Rita Ranch has expanded the network of protected lands in the region and safeguarded critical habitat for wildlife and important water resources in drought-stricken California. Cattle grazing will continue on the property as ranching is a traditional and economic staple in the community. The grazing cattle will also play a role in mitigating fire risks by eating down brush, which also will help keep non-native plants at bay. Protecting a pristine property of this size is a rare and major win for conservation in California’s rapidly developing Central Coast.

"It is highly unlikely we would have been able to buy and protect the Santa Rita Ranch without The Conservation Fund and we are so grateful for their help. Our dream is to make the ranch a center for nature education and research, a premier example of sustainable grazing practices and native grassland restoration, a sanctuary for wildlife, and a place where people can connect quietly with nature. The Conservation Fund made it possible for us to start that journey."

—Kaila Dettman, Executive Director for LCSLO


When the Santa Rita Ranch came up for sale, fears of development loomed — private roads and home plots would have fragmented this important watershed and magnificent landscape. Fortunately, our partner, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County (LCSLO) works within the region to protect special lands like Santa Rita Ranch. But LCSLO needed more time to raise funds to acquire the property, so The Conservation Fund stepped in to quickly negotiate the purchase.

“We were thrilled to play this critical role in the protection of Santa Rita Ranch, a jewel in the stunning landscape of the Central Coast of California. Now, this property will provide key wildlife habitat, protection of the headwaters of a vastly important watershed and a lasting legacy for the region cared for by our partners at the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County.”

—Steve Hobbs, California State Director, The Conservation Fund

We kept the land safe, giving LCSLO extra time to fundraise for this property. In early 2021, the Ranch was officially transferred to LCSLO for permanent protection. The conservation of the Santa Rita Ranch, with its proximity to San Luis Obispo, will also provide opportunities for environmental education for community members and passive recreation once LCSLO has established the necessary infrastructure.