The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) announced on Friday an agreement to preserve 1,194 acres of Hicks Valley ranch land. After four years of planning and fundraising, the Barboni Ranch, located four miles north of the Nicasio Reservoir, will be permanently protected from residential development.
Fourth-generation rancher Bill Barboni II raises beef cattle and sheep on the land and sells organic, grass-fed meat as Hicks Valley Cattle Co.
“Taking care of the property is paramount if you’re going to continue long-term and so our conservation efforts have been noteworthy prior to this and this will enhance it that much more,” Mr. Barboni said. “For those of us that have a passion and want to continue in agriculture, it’s absolutely important because it allows us to hang on to our land and continue to raise cattle and sheep and still allow other siblings to realize some of the value of the property as well.”
“It’s a way of life,” he added.
Jamison Watts, executive director of the land trust, said in a statement that the Barboni’s faced “a classic predicament.”
“A large family, some who ranch, some who do not, needed to provide for all its members but did not want to lose the ranch in the process,” he said. “With the successful completion of this deal everybody wins—the Barboni family, local agriculture and the environment, and Marin County residents at large.”
A 1,300-acre conservation easement that encircles the current easement area was purchased by MALT about 10 years ago in what was at the time the largest land-conservation-easement purchase in the organization’s history.
The two easements were purchased for a total of nearly $3.7 million through funds from several government agencies, some of which partnered with MALT for the first time, including the California Department of Transportation, the Sonoma County Transportation Agency and the Transportation Authority of Marin, as well as additional private and foundation
Some funding was provided explicitly for the permanent protection of oak woodlands and the creation of new habitat for the endangered California red-legged frog. Badgers, river otters, mountain lions, Northern spotted birds and burrowing owls also live on the ranch’s rolling pastures.
The ranch has been in the Barboni family for nearly 90 years, Mr. Barboni said.
Marin Agricultural Land Trust, founded in 1980 by biologist Phyllis Faber and rancher Ellen Straus, has agreements to protect over 45,000 acres on 71 family farms and ranches.