A complex $3.6 million deal spearheaded by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust ensures that nearly 1,200 acres of agricultural land in West Marin’s Hicks Valley won’t be developed.
The deal with the Barboni family, which involved multiple funding sources, two ranches and took four years to finalize, is the latest move struck by MALT to preserve agricultural properties in West Marin by purchasing the development rights associated with the land but not the land itself.
The properties are the 746-acre Barboni Ranch, which is about 4 miles from the western border of Novato, and the family’s adjacent, 448-acre Bassi Ranch, according to MALT. Even if the families sell the land, the development restriction stays with the properties.
“Barboni Ranch is not only one of the larger ranches in Marin County, it’s one of the most ecologically diverse,” MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts said in a statement. “The Barboni family 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. With the successful completion of this deal everybody wins, the Barboni family, local agriculture and the environment, and Marin County residents at large.”
Barboni Ranch occupies a large swath of Hicks Valley, a land of wide pastures, rolling hills and dense oak woodlands. The Barboni family used to operate a dairy on the property and today Bill Barboni II raises beef cattle and sheep. He sells grassfed and organic meat under the Hicks Valley Cattle Co. brand.
"I see this as a way to conserve the land, keep it open and preserve a way of life," said Barboni, a fourth-generation rancher, who grew up on the ranch with his brother Charlie and three sisters, Stephanie, Bonnie and Julie, said in a statement.
MALT officials said that protecting the ranch was a complicated and lengthy process because it involved two parcels and because of the number of funders involved. Of the $3,686,000 purchase price for the easements, $1 million came from the State Coastal Conservancy, $600,000 came from The Wildlife Conservation Board and $714,000 came from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) and Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM).
The Wildlife Conservation Board’s funds were granted specifically to protect property’s diverse oak woodlands. Additional funding of $816,000 from Caltrans, SCTA and TAM permanently protects and provides for long term management of a 204-acre portion of the ranch as dispersal habitat for the endangered California red-legged frog, mitigating impacts from the Marin-Sonoma “Narrows” project on Highway 101.
The remaining $1,372,000 was raised through generous donors, including the 11th Hour Project, to Farmland Forever: Campaign to Honor Executive Director Bob Berner, who retired at the end of last year. The campaign raised $2.2 million to protect three at-risk farms, including Barboni Ranch.