Land Trust Reaches Milestone: 50,000 Acres of Marin’s Private Farmland Preserved for Agriculture
January 30, 2018
Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – Marin Agricultural Land Trust finalized an agricultural conservation easement deal on 609-acre Furlong Ranch in Marshall today, pushing the land trust over the halfway point toward its goal of protecting 100,000 acres, nearly all of the productive private farmland in Marin County. The easement ensures that Furlong Ranch will be protected from subdivision and development and will continue to be used for farming and ranching forever.
MALT was the nation’s first agricultural land trust, a concept pioneered by biologist Phyllis Faber and late dairy farmer Ellen Straus to save Marin’s agricultural landscape and heritage from development. Its success at preserving both farming and natural resources spawned local and national farmland trusts across the United States.
“What Ellen and I hoped to do was to save the ranches along Tomales Bay from development, so to think that we’ve made such a difference for agriculture in Marin County is incredible,” said Faber.
“Reaching the halfway mark is a huge achievement for MALT, not just in terms of acres and ranches protected but also in the permanence and stability 50,000 acres provide for the entire community,” said MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts. “By providing land security, agricultural permanence and liquidity to landowners, MALT continues to be a catalyst and innovator in the advancement of sustainable agriculture and a model nationally. Now we dig in and pick up the pace so we can protect the rest before the opportunity is gone.”
Furlong Ranch was at high risk of being sold for private estate development because of its scenic location overlooking Tomales Bay and its two legal parcels. Hoping to hold on to the ranch their parents have owned and raised sheep on since 1956, owner Donna Furlong’s sons Kevin, Greg and Kirk, approached MALT. Under the easement, the family continues to own the ranch and MALT retires the development rights to it.
“Furlong Ranch represents the best of MALT’s conservation work on the individual ranch level as well as on the broader landscape level,” said Jeff Stump, MALT Director of Conservation. “Protecting this ranch adds 609 acres to an existing 8,562-acre block of MALT-protected land at the southeast end of Tomales Bay. It’s also part of a critical wildlife corridor connecting Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. And it’s the last piece of the Millerton Gulch Creek watershed to be protected, which now allows MALT to move forward with a major stream restoration project that will hopefully allow fish to spawn here for the first time in decades.”
The Marin County Board of Supervisors announced at its December 5 meeting that half the funding, $1,332,650, for MALT’s purchase of an easement on Furlong Ranch would come from the sales-tax funded Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, created when Marin voters passed Measure A in 2012. This program has been central to MALT’s ability to pick up the pace of farmland protection since 2014, and will continue to be important as long as the program exists. It is currently set to expire in 2022 but will go before voters for renewal before then.
Public funding was matched by private contributions to MALT, including funds from the Gary Giacomini Land Fund at Marin Agricultural Land Trust, established with significant support from the Buck Family Fund of the Marin Community Foundation. The stream restoration project will be funded separately.
“We are very excited and proud to partner with MALT on this milestone of 50,000 acres of conserved working farms and ranches. Through the Measure A Farmland Preservation Grant Program, Measure A dollars can take credit for helping to conserve nearly 5,000 acres of open space that includes streams and habitat corridors for fish and wildlife since the measure was passed in 2012. We look forward to continuing a legacy of conservation and future opportunities to partner with MALT,” said Max Korten, Director for Marin County Parks.
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 50,349 acres on 82 family farms and ranches. To learn more about MALT, visit www.malt.org.
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 eight ranches, totaling 4,167 acres of farmland. For more information, visit https://www.marincountyparks.org/depts/pk/about-us/main/measure-a.
Contact: Jamison Watts, (415) 663-1158 ext. 301, [email protected]
High-resolution photos available upon request.