River Ridge Institute grew naturally out of our own experiences with the beautiful and bountiful southern Sierra Nevada foothills. These oak woodlands, especially those stretching from Kern to Fresno counties, still retain much of their natural resources in good condition. California oak woodlands are an important component of the state’s lands, comprising about ten million acres. In the Sierra, all of the watersheds pass through these lands on their way to the Central Valley floor and Sierra water supplies 60% of the state’s total supply.

The oak woodlands are also unusual in that they are 80% privately-owned and about 2/3 of the acreage is grazed. This is critical for natural resource conservation in two ways: first, about 60% of California’s 105 million acres is classified as rangelands, so grazing and its practices have a potentially huge impact on our landscape and, second, much of the privately-owned rangeland is still in the form of large ranches. Large ranches means that they have not been subdivided and that means that they are generally functioning ecological systems, contributing oxygen, sequestering CO2, preventing runoff and erosion and keeping watersheds in much better shape than if they were in other human-related uses.

Land management thus becomes a critical factor in protecting soil from erosion, water from pollution, habitat from subdivision and represents a significant source of carbon sequestration and oxygen production. The practices that ranchers learn, use and share affect us all and River Ridge Institute was formed to teach our interested neighbors how to protect land while keeping it productive and, ideally, to increase its profitability in a sustainable way. Win-win.