Marin Agricultural Land Trust

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= example of how the model of Trusts can preserve farmland


Peter Barnes:

" Another kind of trust can help save family farms and open space around cities. For example, in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, family-owned dairy, sheep, and cattle ranches have survived. A big reason is that ranchers there have an option beyond subdivisions: selling conservation easements to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT).

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a trust that permanently limits uses of the land. The owner continues to own and use the land and may sell it or pass it on to her heirs. However, the owner gives up some of the rights associated with the land—for example, the right to build additional houses on it or to clear-cut trees. The trust that acquires the easement makes sure its terms are followed by the current as well as future owners.

In Marin County, MALT has preserved nearly forty thousand acres of farmland by buying conservation easements from ranchers. This represents about a third of the land currently farmed. The ranchers receive the difference between what the land would be worth if developed and what it’s worth as a working farm. In effect, they’re paid to be stewards of the land and to forgo future capital gains.

Most of MALT’s money comes from government sources. What the public receives isn’t a place to graze livestock like the commons of old, but a lasting pastoral landscape and a viable agricultural economy that makes fresh, local food possible. That’s not a bad alternative to suburban sprawl." (