Adam Weidenbach

Our Mission

John Muir Land Trust protects and cares for open space, ranches, farms, parkland and shoreline in the East Bay.

In three and a half decades, John Muir Land Trust has become a leading force for conservation in northern California. With 3,900+ acres protected, many of the most beautiful places in the East Bay are permanently preserved for passive recreation, wildlife habitat, protection of clean drinking water, and scenic views. JMLT relies on donations to fund operations, stewardship, programs, and new acquisitions. 

Our Vision

We believe the vitality of our open spaces is essential to the health of our earth, air, water and our native plants and animals – all of us. Our vision is to ensure that the beauty, diversity and fullness of our natural areas continue to enrich and sustain all generations of life. We acquire, protect and steward these diminishing lands, and we foster environmental awareness so that each person understands the need to preserve our natural heritage.

Our History

From Kitchen Tables to Vast Landscapes

The John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) began humbly in 1989. Gathered around a kitchen table in Martinez, a group of passionate residents aimed to protect a beloved local treasure: 150 acres of Alhambra Valley open space, now known as Stonehurst. 

Early Victories and Growth

Just three years later, the Land Trust facilitated the addition of the 325-acre Mount Wanda property to the John Muir National Historic Site. In 1997, the young organization set its sights on the ambitious acquisition of Sky Ranch in the Franklin Hills, a 242-acre parcel with a hefty price tag of $685,000. To achieve this goal, the Land Trust transformed into a professional fundraising organization. By its 10th anniversary, membership had grown to 700, and the name was changed to Muir Heritage Land Trust.

Protecting the Bay’s Natural Legacy

We continued acquiring critical lands with the purchase of the 80-acre Gustin Ranch in 2000, north of Sky Ranch. Next came the crucial mission of restoring the 247-acre Pacheco Marsh, part of a larger effort to recover lost Bay Area marshlands. After a decade of dedicated work, the acquisition was completed in 2001.

The following year, JMLT began stewarding the 30-acre Contra Costa Goldfields, one of the county’s last stands of an endangered wildflower. Their work continued in 2003 with the acquisition of the Bodfish Preserve, a cherished Orinda property, followed by the Dutra Ranch, creating a perfect trifecta of protected lands along Franklin Ridge – a total of 480 acres of contiguous open space.

In 2003, we saved Bodfish Preserve, a small but treasured Orinda property. Later that year, the acquisition of Dutra Ranch completed a perfect trifecta of protected lands along Franklin Ridge, creating a contiguous open space of 480 acres.

Landmark Achievements

JMLT’s largest acquisition came in 2005 with the 702-acre Fernandez Ranch. This property underwent a significant $3.5 million restoration project starting in 2008, with the first 702 acres opening to the public two years later. The long-desired Franklin Canyon was acquired in 2010, merging its 483 acres with Fernandez Ranch.

A testament to grassroots advocacy, Acalanes Ridge was purchased in 2011 through a unique partnership of agencies and municipalities, providing breathtaking views for public enjoyment.

Honoring John Muir’s Legacy

In 2015, JMLT’s dedication to conservation aligned perfectly with history. The House of Representatives passed a bill adding the 44-acre West Hills Farm, donated by JMLT, to the John Muir National Historic Site – land John Muir himself once explored. This significant event marked a name change for the organization, becoming the John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) in his honor.

Thousands across the East Bay rallied behind the Campaign to Save Carr Ranch, culminating in its successful acquisition at the end of 2016. This remarkable achievement protected 604 acres of crucial watershed land, wildlife habitat, and public open space, thanks to an unprecedented $7 million raised.

Continued Success and Looking Forward

JMLT’s achievements continued in 2019 with recognition as a California Nonprofit of the Year for the 16th District by Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. The year also saw the successful transfer of the 20-acre Batwing property to the City of Lafayette, destined to become a charming local park.

Overwhelming community support help us to preserve the beloved 84 acres of Painted Rock in Lamorinda in May 2019, anchoring a future 505-acre community open space. By December, the 281-acre Almond Ranch was saved through a collaborative effort, with contributions from the East Bay Regional Park District, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, and countless JMLT members.

Recent Victories and Ongoing Efforts

JMLT’s dedication continues. Breaking ground on Family Harvest Farm in 2020 transformed a vacant lot into a thriving 3.5-acre organic farm employing young adults with experience foster care. In late 2021, a crucial step in Pacheco Marsh restoration occurred with the breaching of the last remaining levee, allowing the natural return of tidal flows and creating a haven for wildlife.

The most recent acquisition, Harvey Ranch in January 2023, expands access to the vast Las Trampas Regional Wilderness and San Leandro Watershed via the connecting Ridgeline Preserve.

The Future is Bright

Today, JMLT returns to its roots with the Campaign to Expand Franklin Ridge. This initiative aims to acquire two key properties, connecting existing trails and safeguarding a vital wildlife corridor. It promises to create five miles of protected ridgeline.

We at JMLT are incredibly proud of our past 35 years, but we’re even more excited for the future. Together, we will shape the natural landscape of the East Bay for generations to come.

Perhaps the best way to see what JMLT is up to is our newsletters. We try to make these entertaining to read and informative. Have a look!