SRT Director of Mitigation and Land Management Ben Munger has a fairly rare job around these parts. His work is mainly related to cattle grazing on all protected SRT lands either in the Carrizo Plain or closer to home here in Tulare County.
With the 2022 departure of SRT Stewardship Director Jeff Powers, who relocated to Northern California, Ben will wear a new hat, becoming additionally responsible for all operations on SRT preserves. This new role started in January, 2023.
In addition to helping SRT Land Steward Jonathan Vaughn accomplish his day to day work, at the SRT Director level Ben also plans for the future while still managing our Mitigation work, which includes biological surveys, monitoring, and special projects. "The acreage that I will be responsible for will not change, but it will include everything on our Fee Title lands - from visitor use to planning for wildfire," Ben told Currents.
"The challenge we face now is getting the work done we need to do while also focusing on larger goals, like increasing the amount of acreage we have under management. We are focused on opportunities with SGMA, but also vigilantly maintaining our existing relationships in the business of conservation, where we have carved out a solid foundation in the "Heartland of California", and also in areas like the Carrizo Plain.
Ben's interest in land management began early. He grew up on private land within the Los Padres National Forest in between Cuyama and Santa Barbara. "I never thought I would work for the Forest Service, but I did work seasonally all over the West including in Alaska starting in 1980. I was influenced by the writings of Aldo Leopold in the Sand County Almanac and by Wilderness and Multiple Use, which may sound contradictory to some people," he said.
In his young adult years Ben found permanent employment with the Forest Service in Dillon, Montana where he was exposed to rangeland management for some huge ranches in the surrounding areas with cattle and sheep leases on public lands. "Part of my interest in Conservation comes from that initial exposure to different values and views that I was confronted with in the Forest Service in the 1990's, regarding timber sales, fire, rangelands, and archeology, which was my expertise," Ben said.
"The Southern Sierra has a familiar landscape to me with a combination of oak woodlands and conifers, with an economy much like all of the communities I have lived in all over the West. Generally the region is based on resource use like farming, logging, and ranching, but in Central California our land values have not skyrocketed to bring the ultra rich with mammoth vacation homes.
Ben says that part of the affordability of living in the area creates a unique work environment at Sequoia Riverlands Trust. "We are working people just like the community we try to support," he points out.