Duncan Ranch – 539 Acres Protected from Development Near Petaluma 

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By Zach Mendes, Director of Land Protection

March 23, 2023

Big news!

The 539-acre Duncan Ranch, just west of Petaluma, is now forever protected, preserving this landscape’s ecological richness and ensuring it remains in agricultural production in perpetuity. 

Our work to protect this ranch builds upon MALT’s more than 55,000 acres of protected land — an area almost twice the size of San Francisco. This growing network of MALT-protected lands contributes to the vast mosaic of conserved lands within Marin County that sustains our local agricultural economy and provides habitat for myriad wildlife. 


The Duncan Ranch builds upon a growing network of MALT-protected land, like pieces of a great puzzle, each piece building upon a collective whole—bolstering the resilience of all local plants, animals and people.

Benefits of Working Lands

The view from the top of the Duncan Ranch is among the best in Marin County, with sweeping vistas across a landscape that looks and feels as it has for decades. Descending from the ridgeline, the property’s verdant grasslands are decorated with gnarled oaks and dramatic rock outcroppings. Each bend and twist across the landscape offers a unique microclimate for a host of native plants and the cornucopia of life they support — both wild and domestic.

Working landscapes, like the Duncan Ranch, can support the capture and long-term storage of greenhouse gasses, serve as habitat for wildlife, provide landscape connectivity for species to move throughout their ranges, and increase water infiltration to aquifers, streams and wetlands. This is why it is critical to continue to protect agricultural lands.  

We are all feeling the effects of a changing climate these days — from intense drought and storm conditions to unbearably smokey days. As a father of two young children, it feels deeply rewarding to know that the significance of our work today at MALT — to permanently protect Marin’s agricultural land — extends beyond our local responsibility; it is now a global imperative. 

The Duncan Ranch (pictured here) will contribute to more than 10,000 acres of contiguous MALT-protected land — a critical landscape for the health of our local economy, community well-being and ecological resilience.

Safeguarding Local Agriculture 

Nearly the entirety of the Duncan Ranch has been deemed “Farmland of Local Importance” by the California Department of Conservation. The ranch’s rich soils, and diverse and healthy grassland are capable of supporting a range of agricultural operations in the future, such as row crops, orchards, egg-laying hens and mixed livestock grazing. 

Through the agricultural conservation easement we secured — a voluntary, legal agreement that runs with the title of the property — we have forever prohibited nonagricultural development and ensured the land stays in agricultural production in perpetuity. It’s comforting to know that the Duncan Ranch will forever support our thriving local food economy, and our agricultural community’s vitality and well-being. 

Win, Win for Wildlife

The protection of the Duncan Ranch builds upon a block of more than 10,000 acres of contiguous MALT-protected land, stretching from the county border to the mouth of Tomales Bay. These large areas of protected land are vital, not just for our regional food economy, but for all life moving within, across and past their boundaries. 

Protecting connected landscapes allows plants and animals to access suitable habitat as the climate changes, to migrate to find what they need, and to adapt to future environmental conditions. There has never been a more important time for MALT’s land preservation and stewardship efforts to thrive and we’re excited to have 9 more land protection projects in the works totaling more than 5,300 acres. 

Measure A: Preserving Our Quality of Life

You don’t need to have visited this ranch to appreciate its value. Chances are you have enjoyed the view of its expansive grasslands when looking south to the ridgeline while driving the Tomales-Petaluma Road. With the successful protection of this ranch, we are building upon the iconic backdrop for all North Bay communities and safeguarding a critical ingredient to the quality of life for millions of Bay Area residents.

Funding for the $2.7 million easement on the Duncan Ranch comes from two sources: half from private donations to MALT and half from a grant from Marin County’s Farmland Preservation Program, funded by Marin County’s Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax devoted to preserving Marin County’s parks, open spaces and agricultural land.

Our protection of the Duncan Ranch would not be possible without the ability to match our private donations with this public funding. Since its passage in 2012, Measure A has allowed Marin County to invest $16.4 million in farmland preservation, enabling MALT to protect 13 farms and ranches totaling 7,953 acres through the acquisition of agricultural conservation easements.

Stay tuned for more good news from MALT in the coming months as we work to protect more of Marin’s farm and ranchland. 

The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) acknowledges that the land in our working area has been home to many Native communities since time immemorial — including the unceded ancestral lands of the Coast Miwok. This community has survived centuries of oppression, displacement and outright genocide, and we honor their ancestors: past, present, and emerging. Find more.

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