Thacher Ranch in Tomales Permanently Protected by Marin Agricultural Land Trust
September 23, 2014
Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – Today, Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) announced the protection of Thacher Ranch near Tomales, placing 623 acres of productive agricultural land and diverse natural resources under permanent protection from subdivison and development.
Thacher Ranch is the first project funded by Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax measure approved by Marin County voters in 2012, which is formally known as the Marin Parks, Open Space, and Farmland Preservation Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance. Funding for Thacher Ranch protection was approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors in a 5-0 vote in May 2014.
“Thacher Ranch is exactly the type of property MALT hoped could be protected with Measure A funds,” said MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts. “Will is an excellent steward of the ranch’s natural resources and has exciting plans for the future of his agricultural operation. Protection of Thacher Ranch fulfills the vision of Measure A and is a tribute to the residents of Marin for their commitment to the land and agriculture.”
Secluded Thacher Ranch – known locally as Rocky Canyon Ranch – sits near Chileno Valley Road and the Marin-Sonoma border. Dense thickets of California native plants enfold nearly the entire stretch of Chileno Creek that flows through the ranch, providing habitat to steelhead trout and supporting the reemergence of endangered Coho salmon. The property is now part of a 20-ranch, 9,800-acre contiguous block of MALT-protected farmland circling the town of Tomales, stretching from Marshall to the county’s northwest corner.
“What’s really amazing in the Bay Area, especially Marin, is you can drive from the San Francisco metropolis and within 25 minutes you’re in an open pasture,” said owner Will Thacher. “In this day and age, with all the pressure of development and population, it takes an organization like MALT to preserve these surrounding areas.”
Will’s parents, James Thacher, a prominent attorney in San Francisco, and wife Gladys, the founder of the San Francisco Education Fund, purchased the ranch in 1964. Will took over management of the ranch in 2007, after his father passed away.
“Before Jim died, he wanted to put the ranch into MALT – this was his greatest wish,” said Gladys. “It’s very important that we keep the property whole, not subdivided.”
Thacher leases out 500 acres of his land for cattle grazing, keeping the remaining 125 acres for his flock of 40 Suffolk-cross ewes, primarily for meat production. In 2013, he purchased 40 head of East Friesian sheep, and plans to launch a small-scale milking and artisan cheese-making operation.
The Thacher conservation easement marks MALT’s 73rd acquisition since its founding in 1980, totaling 46,568 acres of agricultural land protected. The $1.8 million easement was funded by $537,000 from Marin County’s Measure A, $750,000 from private donors, and $520,000 from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Marin County Parks Assistant Director Ron Miska said, “Marin County Parks is pleased to make this contribution of Measure A funds toward the purchase of the Thacher easement. It is the first of what we hope to be many more successful partnerships with MALT to preserve Marin’s agricultural lands and heritage.”
“Marin County’s beautiful landscapes are also rich sources of locally produced food and fiber. Easements such as the one now taking place on the Thacher Ranch are important tools to help communities keep agriculture in the balanced mix of their land use decisions,” said Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in California. “The NRCS is happy to have been able to partner with MALT on many key easements over the years.”
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 conservation easements, which total more than 46,000 acres on 73 family farms and ranches. To learn more about MALT, visit www.malt.org.
About Measure A (the Marin Parks, Open Space, and Farmland Preservation Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance of 2012): Marin County voters widely approved this one-quarter-cent sales tax in 2012. Measure A revenues support the maintenance and improvement of Marin County Parks, farmland and recreation programs. Roughly $2 million per year is set aside through Measure A to support the Farmland Preservation Program, which works to permanently protect Marin’s agricultural lands through the purchase of easements. For more information, visit http://www.marincountyparks.org/depts/pk/about-us/main/measurea
About USDA NRCS FRPP: The USDA’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranch land in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, USDA partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement. For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.
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