Land Trust Protects Chileno Valley Ranch From Development
June 28, 2016
Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – Marin Agricultural Land Trust announced today the protection of the 491-acre Wilson Hill Road Ranch in Chileno Valley. Just 10 minutes from downtown Petaluma, this picturesque working ranch would certainly have faced pressure to subdivide and convert to estate homes without protection from the land trust.
Owners Walt and Arleen Jacobsen, now both in their 90s, approached MALT in 2015 concerned about the future of their ranch and the risk of development down the road. “We want to keep the ranch in the family and preserve its agricultural heritage,” they agreed.
High school sweethearts who’ll celebrate 71 years of marriage this month, the Jacobsens were born and raised in Petaluma, and witnessed many changes to their childhood home. “East Petaluma – that was all farmland and ranches in our day, and now it’s just houses,” said Arleen Jacobsen. “We love our ranch and open space, and we want to keep it this way … always in agriculture.”
From the peak of Wilson Hill Road, the ranch stretches over Marin’s rolling hills toward the Petaluma valley. The ranch is home to several large tracts of mature oak woodlands and a stand of redwood trees. Serpentine grasslands and soil outcroppings host incredible plant diversity, including nearly 100 special broad leaf grasses and wildflowers.
The Jacobsens purchased the ranch in 1950 and Walt Jacobsen – whose father, too, was in the cattle business – ran a cow/calf and beef cattle grazing operation for nearly 60 years. In 2007, Walt began leasing the land to a neighboring rancher, who grazes dairy replacement heifers.
The ranch joins a large swath of 16 MALT-protected properties stretching from the Marin-Sonoma county line northwest up Chileno Valley and southwest to Nicasio, and serves as a permanent agriculture corridor protecting Marin County’s vibrant food and farming economy.
“Strategic protection of large blocks of farmland and wildlife habitat is the surest way to counter the threats of loss and fragmentation,” said MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts. “By protecting the Jacobsens’ beautiful ranch, we’re allowing both farming and wildlife to continue to thrive in our region.”
Included in the MALT agricultural conservation easement, which protects the land in perpetuity, is a Mandatory Agricultural Use (MAU) agreement stipulating that the land must continue to be used for commercial agriculture forever, regardless of change in ownership. The MAU – known in legal terms as an affirmative agricultural covenant – also lowers the value of the land, making it more affordable for farmers to sell land to other farmers.
The $2.23 million easement acquisition was funded by gifts to MALT from private donors and a matching grant from the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program.
“Once again Marin’s voters can take pride in the foresight that they showed in passing Measure A and creating the Marin Farmland Preservation matching grant program,” said Carl Somers, Chief of Planning and Acquisition for Marin County Parks, which administers the program. “The multiple benefits provided by these ranches, including economic diversity, wildlife connectivity, and access to healthy local food, will enrich the lives of all Marinites for generations to come.”
About MALT: Marin Agricultural Land Trust is a member-supported nonprofit organization created in 1980 to permanently preserve Marin County farmland. Some of the Bay Area’s most highly acclaimed dairy and meat products and organic crops are produced on farmland protected by MALT, which totals over 48,000 acres on 78 family farms and ranches.
About the Marin County Measure A (Ordinance 3586) Farmland Preservation Program: Marin County voters widely approved Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax, in 2012. Roughly $2 million per year is set aside through Measure A to support the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, a grant program to preserve agricultural land in Marin. Thus far, program funds have supported the purchase of MALT conservation easements on four ranches, totaling 1,630 acres of farmland. For more information, visit http://www.marincountyparks.org/depts/pk/about-us/main/measurea.
Contact: Marisa Walker, (415) 663-1158 ext. 311, [email protected]