California Rangeland Trust has announced that Stephen Hearst and the Hearst Corporation as the winner of the 2012 Conservationist of the Year Award. True stewards of the land, the Hearsts embody responsible rangeland management and conservation in California.
A longtime friend of the Rangeland Trust, Stephen Hearst was presented the award at the 11th Annual A Western Affair in the presence of family and friends. This year's event was dedicated to the extraordinary life of Hearst's late father, George R. Hearst Jr. Not only was it fitting that Hearst and the Hearst Corporation received this coveted award at an event dedicated to the late Hearst's memory, but the event was held at the historic Old San Simeon Village. This beautiful seaside property owned by the Hearst Corporation is forever preserved with a conservation easement held by the Rangeland Trust.
Under the leadership of Stephen Hearst, the Hearst Corporation, the Rangeland Trust and the American Land Conservancy partnered with the State of California to preserve 128 square miles of pristine rangeland known as the Hearst Ranch that includes 18 miles of spectacular coastline along the scenic Highway 1. This landmark conservation deal was the result of conservationists, agricultural interests, environmentalists, local communities and the Hearsts working together to preserve some of California's favorite views.
"This historic conservation deal changed the course of California's history," says Nita Vail, Rangeland Trust CEO. "This magnificent ranch and coastline are forever preserved for current and future generations to enjoy. The Hearsts continue to be tremendous partners and stewards. They are very deserving of our highest honor."
The multifaceted conservation plan implemented by the Hearsts marked one of the largest land conservation transactions in the state's history, and one of the most significant coastal land gifts ever made to the state of California. The $95 million agreement took more than six years of planning and was approved unanimously by all state agencies with oversight, including the Coastal Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Board, State Parks Department, California Transportation Commission, and the state Public Works Board as well as several environmental and community organizations.
At the time of the agreement, Hearst transferred ownership of approximately 13 miles of coastline for public access, including almost 1,000 acres along Highway 1. The Hearsts also agreed to transfer additional land in cooperation with Caltrans for a future improvement of Highway 1 to protect the coast. In addition, the state gained public access to additional coastal land to complete an 18-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail through the Hearst Ranch.
As part of the plan, a conservation easement was placed on 80,000 acres of the ranchland east of Highway 1. This easement will virtually retire all development rights on the ranch, permanently protecting wildlife habitats, water quality, and a piece of California's history.
"The Hearsts' perseverance and dedication to seeing that the ranch was preserved, paved the way for the entire ranching community's success in conserving the working rangelands so vital to the economic and environmental health of our Golden State," says Steve Sinton, Rangeland Trust founding Chairman of the Board and San Luis Obispo county rancher.