Placer Land Trust and landowners Kevin and Patty Crisp have permanently protected Whiskey Run Ranch, a 197-acre working ranch north of the city of Lincoln. 

Whiskey Run Ranch is a family-owned and operated cattle and mixed livestock ranch. The land is high-quality grazing land amidst blue oak woodlands and annual grasslands, with a quarter-mile stretch of Raccoon Creek running through the ranch.  

Placer Land Trust purchased an Agricultural Conservation Easement from the Crisps at market value, permanently protecting the property while allowing the landowners to continue their agricultural operations. Under the Agricultural Conservation Easement, the landowners retain the right to limited development so that the family can continue to live on and work the land, while being compensated for giving up the right to subdivide and fully develop the property.

“Patty and I are both native Californians that grew up exploring nature and just running wild as kids,” says landowner Kevin Crisp. “We purchased the property because we saw it as a piece of California that hasn’t changed significantly in the last 100 years, a place where we could walk through the hills surrounded by oaks, all the wildlife and nature. We want to preserve that part of California for our kids, grandkids, and all Californians. Placer Land Trust came to our attention as a partner that shared our interest in California’s future.”

When purchased by the Crisps in 2016, the ranch had been severely overgrazed. Following the advice of the University of California Cooperative Extension Farm and Ranch Advisor, they determined how many cattle the ranch can sustainably support and decided to let the land rest and recover for several years before re-starting a commercial operation.

During the rest period, the landowners experimented with rotational multi-species grazing and developed a plan for a sustainable mixed livestock operation. As a result, grass, wildflower, and other foraging growth have since significantly rebounded. Grazing with mixed livestock is one component of their plans for a sustainable operation, since different livestock target different forage. The Crisps sell Whiskey Run Ranch beef through their website and via a local online farmer’s marketplace based in Auburn.

“Placer County’s agricultural lands are really attractive for development, but the real value of these lands is food production by local farmers and ranchers,” said Placer Land Trust Executive Director Jeff Darlington. “We’re pleased to provide State of California conservation funding to local farmers and ranchers who are willing to protect their productive agricultural lands forever.”

Photo courtesy Whiskey Run Ranch

In addition to the benefits to local agriculture, protecting this land helps preserve the Raccoon Creek corridor, an important migration route allowing wildlife to move west to east. The landowners have observed juvenile salmonids, bald eagles, golden eagles, various hawks, owls, hummingbirds, wood ducks, mallards, woodpeckers, turkeys, quail, deer, black bear, bobcats, foxes, and skunks on the property.

Funds for the Whiskey Run Ranch project were made available through the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) in collaboration with the Department of Conservation. SALC 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. Placer County remains one of the fastest-growing counties in California, and the growth of Lincoln has been particularly explosive, with hundreds or even thousands of acres of farmland being converted to development every year. Agricultural conservation easements that limit development avoid the ongoing greenhouse gas emissions associated with that development while promoting healthy land use practices and environmental health.

Photo courtesy Whiskey Run Ranch

State funds for the project were to be supplemented by federal grant funds, but federal funding fell through at the last minute, and Placer Land Trust tapped special reserve funding donated by land trust members over the years for agricultural conservation. 

“We’re thankful for the State’s investment in protecting agricultural lands like Whiskey Run Ranch in partnership with willing landowners,” said Darlington. “In this case, our local members and supporters of Placer Land Trust deserve a special shout-out for supporting agriculture and making this project happen.”

Placer Land Trust aims to preserve wild open spaces, farms and ranches, natural resources, and natural playgrounds because they are vital to quality of life today and in the future. Protecting these landscapes is essential to successfully build and sustain connections among people, their community, and the natural environment. Placer Land Trust works with willing landowners and conservation partners to permanently protect and care for natural and agricultural lands in Placer County for current and future generations. Learn more at www.placerlandtrust.org.