Sierra Valley, CA, ranch secures its future with California Rangeland Trust easement

Jun 3, 2011
by WLJ

The Sierra Valley in northern California is like no other. In fact, it is the largest Alpine Valley of its kind in the country. Now, 750 acres of this special place, on the Maddalena Ranch, will forever remain home to these environmental riches, a family cattle operation and its future generations. The Maddalena Ranch has been protected from future development through a conservation easement with the California Rangeland Trust.

Ranch owners Tony and Cindy Maddalena have dedicated their property to grazing and ranching purposes while providing for future uses such as a youth camp. This conservation easement was funded with support from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Northern Sierra Partnership due to its outstanding native habitat, perennial surface water resources, and open space values. Many ranches in the valley, like the Maddalena, are privately owned and have been for generations. These jewels are the conservation puzzle pieces that will ensure this region remains as it is now, forever.

“For what this ranch is and where it sits, it is not supposed to be anything less but what it is right now, also we do not want to go the way of the Reno area,” said Tony Maddalena. “This valley is precious and it should always stay as the Sierra Valley is known; now a part of it will.”

The Maddalena Ranch is a typical cow/calf operation in the mountain valley, running pairs during the growing season from May to November, weather permitting. Cows are moved south as the weather changes and calves go to market in August.

A typical cattle operation, but a less than typical scenario when it comes to the next generation. Tony and Cindy’s children plan to continue the ranch into the future. Annie and her fianc√© will be moving back to the ranch after they wed this summer, and her older brother, Sam, has visions of continuing the business as well. Nowadays, the aspirations of the younger generation often venture away from the home ranch or the ranching lifestyle, but the Maddalena kids want to continue the family tradition.

Tony and his wife Cindy, married for 35 years, took on the care and maintenance of the land and cattle from his father, Louie, in 1983 and have been there ever since. “We can’t imagine being anywhere else.

This place is home,” said Cindy.

“I would say the process began about 10 years ago,” said Tony. “We thought about it for about five years and it took nearly five years to make the dream come true.” The Maddalena’s had watched fellow ranchers and friends, like Jack Sparrowk, place easements on their land, and because their children were “100 percent behind it,” they knew they were doing what was right for their family and the land.

The couple also found that working with their own team of advisors, from tax experts to attorneys, helped them make decisions today that will be applicable in the future. “We love that this easement with the Rangeland Trust is tailor-made, but you need good advisors surrounding you,” said Cindy. “The Rangeland Trust also helped in meeting the goals most important to us and our family.”

“We are proud to have worked with a family like the Maddalenas whose goals for stewardship of the land and protecting family ranch operations align with our own,” said Darrel Sweet, Rangeland Trust board member. “The goals of our conservation partners and the Rangeland Trust’s support of ranchers in the valley will serve to assist more landowners who want to protect the future of their ranches.” — WLJ