County of Marin - News Releases - McDowell Ranch Easement

For Immediate Release
July 12, 2022

Tomales Farmland and Habitat Protected

Supervisors approve grant to MALT for 723-acre easement

San Rafael, CA – The 723-acre McDowell Ranch near Tomales will be preserved as agricultural land, and critical habitat will be protected, with help from the County of Marin and a local land trust.

A view of green pasture and a creek at McDowell Ranch.According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the McDowell Ranch property is one of the most critical habitats in the state.

On July 12, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted to award a matching grant of $1,817,300 to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) so it can purchase an agricultural conservation easement at McDowell Ranch, an organic grass-fed beef cattle facility that has been an active ranch for more than 120 years. The ranch is along Stemple Creek between Tomales and the Marin-Sonoma county line.

With the Board’s support, the easement assures protection of an environmentally and agriculturally important landscape. It supports ecosystem preservation while protecting the sustainability of local working land and food production.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the property  is one of the most critical habitats in the state. The ranch includes 1.44 miles of the Stemple Creek watershed, a tributary to the Estero San Antonio. The property also includes 667 acres of perennial and annual grasslands, and 56 acres of coast oak woodland and California bay forest. Almost all of the ranch is considered “farmland of local importance” by the California Department of Conservation, and two-thirds of it is classified as essential habitat by the Bay Area Conservation Lands Network. McDowell Ranch is adjacent to a large swath of permanently protected properties encompassing approximately 9,806 acres stretching east to west in northern Marin County.

“This action by the Board supports sustainable agriculture and protection of natural resources,” said Parks General Manager and Open Space Director Max Korten. “It aligns with the mandate put forward by Marin voters in 2012 Measure A.”

The funds for this matching grant come from 2012 Parks Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax approved by Marin voters. A portion of 2012 Measure A funds were mandated for the protection of Marin farmland, resulting in a Farmland Preservation Grant Program authorized by the Board of Supervisors.   

The County’s financial contribution to the McDowell Ranch conservation easement matches that of MALT, bringing the total transaction to about $3.6 million.

MALT, which dates to 1980, has safeguarded more than 54,000 acres to boost the agricultural economy and workforce, support sustainable agriculture, retain the local food system, protect precious habitat, and save Marin’s picturesque landscape from development.

As of the end of 2021, 6,693.4 acres of Marin ranchland have been conserved with the help of the County Farmland Preservation Program. Through 2021, the County has contributed $13,262,406 toward matching grants for conservation easements.

After consideration of community feedback, Marin voters overwhelmingly supported re-implementation of Parks Measure A in June 2022.   


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