About 600 acres of western Marin County that connects federally protected National Park Service land on the east shore of Tomales Bay to the coastal ridges north of Point Reyes Station has been protected from development through an easement acquired by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT).

The historic 602-acre Stanley Martinelli Ranch is adjacent to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and overlooking the southeastern shore of Tomales Bay just two miles north of Point Reyes Station.

In announcing the deal, the land trust stated the acquisition of an agricultural conservation easement on the property protects the land for farming and ranching forever, and brings the total farmland acreage it has protected to 48,738 acres.

The Martinelli family has owned the cattle ranch for more than 120 years. In its announcement, MALT stated that since Stanley Martinelli passed away in 2014, his widow Elaine Martinelli has managed the ranch with help from her children--Rodney, Mike, Cheryl and Daryl. Despite financial burdens, the family has resisted pressures to sell the land, but the ranch’s future has been increasingly in question.

“We were facing a very uncertain financial future,” Elaine stated in the announcement. ”We couldn’t get loans because we’re a small family operation and ranching income is so unpredictable from one year to the next.”

The $1.8 million MALT easement is funded by gifts to MALT from private donors and a matching grant from the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program. The organization stated that a provision in the easement requires that current and future owners continue to actively use the ranch for productive, commercial agriculture, ensuring the land is available to ranchers for generations to come.

“My family loves this ranch and my son Rodney loves his cows. It’s part of a lifestyle going back generations on both sides of the family,” said Elaine Martinelli, who was raised on a ranch in Nicasio that is also protected by MALT.

Linking Tomales Bay to inland portions of Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties, the ranch contains habitat for mountain lions, bobcats, owls, raptors, waterfowl and geographically-unique plant species, as well as riparian plants and animals in Grand Canyon Creek, which skirts the property line on its way into Tomales Bay.

“During this time of increasing pressure to sell to estate buyers, not only does the permanent protection of the Stanley Martinelli Ranch secure more land for agriculture strengthening Marin’s farming community and economy, it also links critical inland wildlife habitats to the coastal wetlands,” MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts stated.

“This interconnected system of protected working- and wild-lands allow natural ecological processes like migration and range shifts to continue, despite changing weather patterns that may challenge the survival of some species,” Watts added.