Agriculture, Climate, Environment, Stewardship

What is MALT’s Stewardship Assistance Program (SAP)?

February 9, 2021

My name is Eric, and I’m MALT’s stewardship program manager. Each year, my colleagues and I visit every MALT-protected ranch. These visits serve to check in with farmers and ranchers about their MALT conservation easements, learn about their upcoming projects and offer support where we are able. One of the primary ways MALT supports farmers and ranchers is through our Stewardship Assistance Program (SAP).

I’ve answered these crucial questions below to help you better understand SAP and its impact.

What is MALT’s Stewardship Assistance Program?

Once MALT has protected a ranch with an agricultural conservation easement, MALT’s team gets to work with farmers and ranchers to improve soil and water quality, increase agricultural productivity, protect habitat and natural resources and make Marin’s working farms and ranches more resilient to the impacts of climate change. 

Created in 2002, MALT’s Stewardship Assistance Program began as an effort to improve water quality in the region. SAP has evolved into a grant-making program that provides farmers and ranchers with the resources necessary to sustainably steward their easement-protected land. Through SAP, MALT provides technical guidance and funding to agriculturalists to plan and implement sustainable management and conservation practices.

Since its start, SAP has contributed more than $1.25 million dollars toward 135 different projects on 52 ranches across Marin, increasing the important ecosystem services provided by Marin farm and ranchland, including improved water quality, enhanced habitat and carbon sequestration.

How does SAP work? How is it funded?

Advancing MALT’s stewardship goals is best done in partnership. To increase and strengthen the stewardship of MALT-protected lands, MALT works closely with the Marin Resource Conservation District (MRCD) to administer SAP grants. 

Farmers and ranchers on MALT-protected properties submit a SAP grant application to the MRCD and MALT. When they apply for SAP, farmers and ranchers describe the conservation practices that they hope to implement and the environmental benefits of the project. In some cases, property owners have already secured additional state and federal funding from MALT partners.

With funds received from generous donors, MALT provides funds to the MRCD to be distributed as SAP grants. Often, in multi-partner projects, MALT provides the matching funds required by local, state or federal program funding. Stewardship staff work closely with farmers, ranchers and partners to ensure SAP projects adhere to conservation practice standards and accomplish conservation goals. 

SAP funds up to 85% of the landowner’s cost share, with a cap of $15,000 for smaller projects and $50,000 for larger projects with multiple funding agencies.

MALT and the MRCD also work closely with the UC Cooperative Extension, Carbon Cycle Institute, Point Blue Conservation Science’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) program, National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Marin Carbon Project

The partners engaged in a SAP project depend on each unique project and farm or ranch. For example, for most planting projects, MALT partners with STRAW, an educational program through Point Blue Conservation Science that engages teachers and students in implementing restoration efforts on MALT-protected farms and ranches.

What types of projects does MALT work on through SAP?

SAP funds a variety of conservation projects, protecting Marin’s watersheds, increasing sustainable range and pasture management, providing technical farm assistance and increasing carbon sequestration through climate-resilient and carbon farming practices. Projects can range from cross fence installation, riparian restoration, water infrastructure development, stream bank stabilization, compost application and more.

Often these projects are identified in the farm or ranch’s Agricultural Management Plan, Creek Conservation Area Management Plan, Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan or a carbon farm plan, created by the agriculturalist, MALT and partner agencies.

What SAP projects has MALT completed?

MALT and its partners have completed 135 projects to date, with many more in the pipeline! These various projects fall into any of the following categories:

More examples of SAP projects can be found here.

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What are the benefits of SAP?

Farmland is one of the largest potential carbon sinks in the world; farmers and ranchers can help mitigate climate change through regenerative agricultural practices.

Making up 57 million acres in California alone, rangelands have the potential to be managed more productively, sequestering more carbon into the soil. One study from the University of California, Davis, found that grasslands and rangelands are more resilient carbon sinks than forests in 21st century California. 

In Marin County, only roughly 3% of productive agricultural land is ideal for row crop production. Most of Marin’s productive agricultural land is rangeland, with water availability, topography, soil types and microclimates best suited to livestock and dairy production.

Well-managed, privately-owned rangelands provide a host of environmental benefits, including groundwater filtration, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, open space and scenic landscapes. Through SAP, MALT is helping Marin farmers and ranchers adopt the practices to achieve and increase these positive outcomes.  

Check out the Marin Climate Action Plan, a collaborative effort among the county and many local partners including MALT, that recognizes the beneficial role agriculture can have in fighting climate change.

MALT holds agricultural conservation easements on more than 54,000 acres of the privately-held agricultural land in Marin County. MALT is leveraging this unique opportunity to increase sustainable management practices throughout the county through its Stewardship Assistance Program and unique partnerships.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

SUPPORT MALT

MALT has preserved more than 54,000 acres of Marin’s productive farmland to date, but there are still roughly 50,000 acres to go. Donate today to protect at-risk farmland in Marin County, forever.

BUY LOCAL 

Every time you shop you have the opportunity to support your local farmers and ranchers. Browse MALT producers and products here!

LEARN MORE!

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Thank you for your support!

Eric
Stewardship Program Manager