Conservation at FMR

We are the stewards of this incredible grassland ecosystem

Protecting grassland ecosystems conserves biodiversity, and results in cleaner streams, less fertilizer runoff, increased numbers of pollinators for plants, and high carbon sequestration in soils.

Ranchers protect some of the best intact grasslands in the United States, but face economic pressures, and threats from increasingly unpredictable weather conditions. Since the early 1980s, the Flying M Ranch has worked with conservation organizations to protect and maintain the health of its grassland ecosystem.


Committed to Conservation

Stewards of the Land

With working ranches occupying approximately 40 million acres in California, ranching is the number one land use. Ranchers are tasked with conserving vast areas of grassland habitat, critical to maintaining ecological biodiversity.


Promoting Grassland Vitality

Importance of Ranching

Scientific studies have found that ranching maintains the health of grassland ecosystems, improving soil quality with manure, and preserving open space and wildlife habitat. Additionally, carbon is effectively sequestered in the grasses and soils of grazing lands. While ranchers play a critical role in preserving grassland ecosystems, they are also tasked with providing a reliable and sustainable food source to feed our growing population.

Reversing Climate Change via Grazing

Mimicking the grazing patterns of wild herds with cattle

Throughout the world, grasslands have evolved over millennia to support vast herds of roaming herbivores. These herds display spatial and temporal characteristics that are fundamental to grassland vitality. First, as a defense mechanism, grazing herds spatially distribute themselves in tight clusters. Secondly, they are in constant motion throughout their range. These two characteristics create a pattern of grazing, trampling, and fertilizing that promote plant decomposition, carbon sequestration in the soil, and nutrient cycling. Research has revealed that without proper grazing, grasses do not effectively decompose. This presents a host of issues, including the release of carbon into the atmosphere, rather than carbon uptake in the soil, and desertification. Over the past few centuries, population numbers and densities of wild grazing animals have declined drastically as a consequence of human activity. In response, grasslands around the world are undergoing desertification. Grazing is now viewed as an imperative condition for maintaining the health of grassland ecosystems, and increasing carbon sequestration in soils.

Grazing & Vernal Pools

Maintaining the vernal pool grassland ecosystem via sustainable grazing practices

Cattle are a critical component of the vernal-pool grasslands. Research has found that by grazing down invasive European grasses, cattle enable the native herbaceous flowers to grow and flourish. This is why the Flying M has worked with conservation organizations, biologists and botanists to assess the condition of our ecosystem for over 30 years.

Merced Grasslands

The Merced grasslands are home to species of plants and invertebrates that occur nowhere else on earth.

The Merced Grasslands, one of the largest and most intact vernal pool-grasslands habitats in the world, supports a unique assemblage of native species. The vernal pools, ringed by wildflowers in the spring, harbor a number of rare and endangered species. The pools also attract large flocks of wintering waterfowl and shorebirds in the rainy season.

Merced Ranch-Louie-039

Fauna & Flora of the Grasslands

The ranch provides for a splendid diversity of fauna and flora.

FMR’s efforts to conserve vast tracts of vernal pool grasslands has ensured the vitality of the ecosystem, and the safety of the unique and diverse species found within it.



The Merced Grasslands ecosystem hosts a variety of rare plants, including succulent owl’s-clover, Ewan’s larkspur, dwarf Downingia, pincushion navarretia, spiny-sepaled button-celery, hogwallow starfish, and San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass. The rare Navarretia Myersii was discovered on the ranch and named accordingly.



All of the minute crustaceans that inhabit the vernal pools are rare, including vernal pool fairy shrimp, midvalley fairy shrimp, California fairy shrimp, Conservancy fairy shrimp, and vernal pool tadpole shrimp.



The vernal pools provide a viable habitat for several species of amphibians, including California tiger salamanders, western toads, and western spadefoot toads.



Several species of unique songbirds can be found on the Flying M Ranch. These include, tricolored blackbirds, California horned larks, and savannah sparrows.



The Flying M Ranch provides suitable habitat for several different species of raptors, including bald eagles, prairie falcons, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, kestrels, and burrowing owls.



The Ranch provides habitat to several rare species of mammals, including the San Joaquin kit fox, the San Joaquin pocket mouse, and the Merced Kangaroo rat.


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