Staff report

California Rangeland Trust announced Feb. 18 that after 20 years of service CEO Nita Vail will leave her position at the end of April. The Rangeland Trust has tapped Michael Delbar, who currently serves as the chief operating officer, as Vail’s successor. He will assume his new role as CEO in May.

“Positive change is important for a strong organization to continue to grow and thrive. I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve accomplished since my tenure began, and I will forever hold its mission close to my heart,” said Vail. “We’re all born with a great love of land, and it is our responsibility to preserve it.”

Vail began her career with the Rangeland Trust in 1998 as a founding board member and took over as CEO three years later. Her leadership helped transform the organization into the largest statewide land trust in California, which now boasts 15 employees and has permanently protected more than 338,000 acres of private land throughout the state.

“Nita helped to build the California Rangeland Trust and her legacy will remain strong,” said Rangeland Trust Board Co-Chair Mark Nelson. “We started with two employees and a mission to conserve working land. With Nita at the helm, we now have 15 team members, an engaged board and valuable partnerships across the state that have allowed the Rangeland Trust to protect thousands of acres of open space in California.”

Vail’s involvement with the Rangeland Trust has resulted in landmark conservation agreements, including the conservation of the historic 80,000-acre Hearst Ranch along California’s scenic Highway 1. Vail also helped to establish fundraising events like A Western Affair, which celebrates its 14th anniversary in April. Benefit events like this have helped more than 60 ranching families permanently conserve their properties for future generations to enjoy.

“Nita’s influence will benefit the California Rangeland Trust for years to come, and we are grateful to have had her leading the way for the last 20 years,” Delbar said. “Filling Nita’s shoes won’t be easy, but I am honored to lead the Trust at this juncture, and I look forward to building on Nita’s incredible work.”

Vail has served on several boards including the Partnership of Rangeland Trusts, California State Fair Agricultural Advisory Board, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Animal Science Advisory Board and Santa Cruz Island Foundation Advisory Board. She is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (Class 21), American Leadership Forum (Class 18), a 2010 recipient of the Irvine Foundation Leadership Award and has received numerous awards for her dedication to land stewardship and her drive to offer innovative conservation solutions for ranching families.