Estrada Ranch Permanently Protected

Estrada Ranch Permanently Protected

By Eric O'Keefe

Photography By Teddy Miller


SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS. The Estrada family has shepherded their ranch for more than 150 years.

Published On: June 1, 20232.4 min read
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California’s pioneering Estrada Ranch, which dates from 1863, has implemented the first step of a two-phase plan that will enable future ­generations of the family to continue ranching and ­logging on land their forefathers settled more than 150 years ago. The two-phased ­conservation approach, which was developed in conjunction with the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), is a natural extension of the family’s ­traditional land uses and syncs with the vision the heirs have for their land.

Estrada Family Heritage

In 1863, Richard and Frank Estrada’s great-grandparents Jose Antonio and Loretta Estrada purchased more than 2,000 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Since then, the family has grazed cattle and harvested ­redwoods while ensuring the continued ­vitality of the landscape. Today, the Estrada Ranch ranks as one of the last, large private landholdings still under family ownership in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Central California.

In December, Richard Estrada sold his 839 acres to POST for $10.6 million. One of the many conditions of the sale is that the land will continue to be managed by members of the Estrada family. Zach Estrada will run the ­cattle operation, and longtime partner Big Creek Lumber will continue to implement sustainable forestry practices.

“This is a poignant moment for me,” said Richard Estrada. “For more than 40 years, I have taken care of these lands, and for many years before that I supported my parents’ efforts to do the same thing. Now it is time for me to move on from those responsibilities. I am very happy that POST has purchased these parcels from me to protect and preserve the land, to continue to care for the redwoods, and to keep this way of life going at Estrada Ranch.”

Creative Conservation

“We are grateful to work with the Estrada family and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County to protect this significant property from development and subdivision and to enable continuity of the family’s legacy of responsible, sustainable timber production and cattle grazing. This is a creative conservation solution that benefits the land, people, wildlife and environmental resilience of our region. It’s our shared vision that people and nature will benefit from this land being preserved forever,” said Walter Moore, president of POST.

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County will take the lead in developing a conservation easement that will cover the remaining 1,204 acres of the ranch that belong to ­Richard’s brother, Frank Estrada, and his two sons Greg and Grant. “Our family has been ­managing and protecting this ranch since the mid-1800s, and we feel very strongly that it be preserved for the future,” said Greg Estrada. “By entering into this relationship with Peninsula Open Space Trust and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, we will be able to ­continue our family’s way of life and preserve the ranch forever.”

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