County of Marin - News Releases - McIsaac Ranch

For Immediate Release
March 16, 2018

Another Ranch Preserved Through Easement

County collaborates to save Nicasio property with Marin Agricultural Land Trust

San Rafael, CA – Once again, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) and the County of Marin have teamed up to protect a working ranch and add to the swath of permanently protected West Marin farmland that’s now more than 81 square miles.

Cows in a pasture at McIsaac Ranch in NicasioThe McIsaac family has farmed the same Nicasio land for more than 137 years.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors approved a grant agreement March 13 worth $1,731,850 to help MALT purchase an agricultural conservation easement over the 527-acre McIsaac Ranch in Nicasio. The agreement ensures the land remains as a working ranch and the open space character of the land will be protected in perpetuity. The funding for this grant comes from the Measure A Farmland Preservation Program.

Orchestrated with staff from Marin County Parks, the easement deal comes less than two months after Taylor Ranch was protected through the same partnership and about three months after Furlong Ranch received a similar easement. Both properties are in Point Reyes Station and have deep family roots in farming and ranching but were in danger of being sold for non-agricultural use.

McIsaac Ranch, just north of Nicasio Reservoir, has been leased by the McIsaac family from an absentee landowner for more than 137 years. The landowner said it was unlikely he could hold onto the property for an extended time, opening the door to a sale and potential development.

“It always makes us feel great to help keep a family ranch in agricultural production,” said Parks Director Max Korten. “We’re doing what we can to maintain our important ag economy, preserve family farms and maintain the open space character of West Marin. Reaching those goals without affecting the County General Fund is pretty important to preserving the Marin we love and enjoy.”

Parks is using funds from the Measure A Farmland Preservation Program to cover the $1.73 million portion of the easement agreement, with the other half coming from MALT. The appraised fair market value of the easement was $3,427,000. The Measure A Farmland Preservation Program is tied to a 2012 quarter-cent sales tax approved by Marin voters and is dedicated to protecting and preserving working farms and ranches at risk of subdivision and development.

An agricultural conservation easement does not convey ownership of a property. Instead, it conveys certain rights to the easement holder and/or obligations to the landowner. In this case the easement will require that economically viable agriculture at McIsaac Ranch will continue while balancing protection of the natural resources of the property, in perpetuity. If the easement was not purchased and the land were sold for non-agricultural use, it is unlikely that it would be available to an agriculturally minded buyer in the future.

Through the Farmland Preservation Program, easement transactions involve negotiations between willing landowners and qualified nonprofits. Previous matching grants from the program were used to preserve the Murphy Family Fallon and Thacher ranches near Tomales, the Taylor, Furlong, Gallagher North Bend and Martinelli ranches near Point Reyes Station, the Dolcini Ranch west of Novato, the Jacobsen Ranch southwest of Petaluma, and the Evans-Giacomini Ranch north of Nicasio.

All told, more than $8 million of Measure A Farmland Preservation funds have been matched by MALT to preserve just over 4,000 acres of local agricultural lands since the tax measure was approved in 2012. With the addition of McIsaac Ranch’s 527 acres, the total number of acres protected in West Marin is up to 51,876 acres, or 81 square miles.

The quarter-cent retail transactions and use tax not only is intended for farmland preservation but also for care of Marin’s existing parks and open spaces and to support regional community parks projects and programs.


Craig Richardson
Senior Open Space Planner
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7057
Email: Craig Richardson
Marin County Parks website