MALT protects Nicasio land


A Nicasio dairy ranch is the latest beneficiary of county Measure A funds, after Marin County Parks this week awarded $1.5 million to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust to purchase an agricultural easement on a 758-acre property owned by the Ielmorini family. Doug Ielmorini, a fifth-generation rancher, and Cathy Ielmorini, a third-generation rancher, also own a neighboring 400-acre parcel protected by a MALT easement that houses the rest of their operation. With the sale of that easement in 1998, the couple began leasing some of the neighboring 758-acre property, which was owned by several partners; in the early 2000s, they bought them out with a sizeable bridge loan and mortgage. MALT will match the Measure A monies with private funds to purchase a conservation easement for that land. The Ielmorinis declined to be interviewed, but MALT explained the family’s predicament in the application that went before the board on Tuesday. “With the falling price of organic milk, the Ielmorinis will not be able to afford to continue to make the high bridge loan payments without the help of a MALT easement sale,” the report states. “If MALT cannot secure the funding to buy the easement on time, the Ielmorinis may have to sell the ranch, and it could end up converted to a private park or estate.” According to the Conservation Lands Network, a project of the Bay Area Open Space Council, the ranch is considered “highly suitable” for conservation. The network said half of the property—which is located about halfway between Stafford Lake and the Nicasio Reservoir, just east of Petaluma-Point Reyes Road—as part of a crucial wildlife habitat corridor between the San Geronimo Valley inland to Mount Saint Helena. Craig Richardson, a senior open space planner for the parks department, highlighted the potential for protecting habitat for several species on the property: the northern spotted owl, the California red-legged frog, the foothill yellow-legged frog, and the western pond turtle, all special-status species. The parks department will draw the monies from its farmland preservation program, which receives 20 percent of its funding through Measure A’s quarter-cent sales tax. With the addition of Ielmorini ranch, MALT has now protected a total of more than 54,000 acres, putting them halfway to their target goal of 100,000 acres by 2040.