Agriculture, Climate, Environment, Stewardship

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

May 12, 2022

My name is Scott, and I’m MALT’s stewardship program manager. Each year, my colleagues and I visit every MALT-protected ranch. These visits are an opportunity to check in with farmers and ranchers about their MALT conservation easements, learn about 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. 

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

Since its start, SAP has contributed more than $1.39 million toward 138 different projects on 56 ranches across Marin, increasing the important ecosystem services provided by Marin farm and ranchland, including improved water quality, enhanced wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration.

How does SAP work? How is it funded?

Advancing MALT’s stewardship goals is best done in partnership. When a landowner or a lessee on MALT-conserved land submits an application to MALT, there are three different tracks for an application to be processed in: 1) The applicant is working directly with MALT and no other organization/agency; 2) The applicant is working with a grant from another organization/agency and they are applying for MALT funding to help offset project costs; and 3) The applicant is an “interested party” and the project is administered and managed by the Marin Resource Conservation District (MRCD).

Here is some additional insight to the three different funding tracks:

MALT is fortunate to receive gifts from generous donors, which funds our stewardship work including SAP. Throughout the process, MALT stewardship staff works closely with farmers, ranchers and partners to ensure SAP projects adhere to conservation practice standards and accomplish conservation goals. 

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, NRCS and the Marin Carbon Project to implement a range of impactful projects. 

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 that protect Marin’s watersheds, increase sustainable range and pasture management, provide technical farm assistance and increase carbon sequestration through climate-resilient and carbon farming practices. Projects can vary from cross fence installation, riparian restoration, water infrastructure development, stream bank stabilization, compost application, pasture seeding 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 138 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.

What are the benefits of SAP?

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. 

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 grants from 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!

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Thank you for your support!

Scott
Stewardship Program Manager – Sustainable Agriculture