330 Acres of Local Farmland Protected Forever!

October 4, 2017

Posted in: Press Releases

330 Acres of Local Farmland Protected Forever!

Ag & Open Space Board Approves $1.88 million to Conserve Two Rock Valley Ranch

SANTA ROSA, CA (October 4, 2017) – Yesterday the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District (District) approved $1.88 million in public funds to purchase a conservation easement over Hansen Ranch – a 330-acre property on the edge of the Two Rock Valley northwest of Petaluma. This extraordinary deal conserves a large swath of bucolic, open pasture land that supports a nearby organic dairy, includes intermittent creeks with riparian vegetation that are important for wildlife, offers beautiful scenic vistas from Pepper Road, and serves as an important groundwater recharge area. The ranch is owned by the McClelland family, who own and operate McClelland Dairy.

“Safeguarding our agricultural lands from development and helping long-time farming families stay in business are two of the primary reasons our residents created the Ag & Open Space District over 25 years ago,” says Shirlee Zane, Third District Supervisor and Chair of the District’s Board of Directors. “So as a Board, we love these types of projects that maintain our rural character, support our local economy, and help protect the environment too.”

“Dairy farms, cattle ranches, and pasture lands not only make up the beautiful landscape of southern Sonoma County, but the multi-generational farmers and ranchers who work those lands are an important part of the fabric of our community and our local economy,” adds Second District Supervisor, David Rabbitt, who sits on the District’s Board of Directors and whose district includes Hansen Ranch.

Located on Walker Road on the edge of the Two Rock Valley, Hansen Ranch is almost completely open pasture with scenic rolling hills and a few intermittent creeks that feed into Stemple Creek. Two-thirds of the property – roughly 220 acres – is classified as “Farmland of Local Importance,” a designation adopted by the Board of Supervisors and given to land that is important to the local economy. In addition, 107 acres is located within a key natural groundwater recharge area. By protecting this area from development and paving, the District helps to maintain the water supply for agricultural uses, for human consumption, and for sensitive wildlife habitat.

In addition to keeping this land in agriculture and helping to support a long-time farming family that contributes to our local economy, the protection of this ranch also helps the county become more resilient to climate change. The open pasture sequesters carbon from the air and greenhouse gas emissions that come from residential development and associated car trips are avoided.

Preventing future subdivision and residential development on this property was a priority for the District because it is located between six existing District conservation easements totaling more than 2,500 acres of protected land in the Two Rock area. The addition of Hansen Ranch will allow for 2,900 acres of contiguous protected farmland in a region where families have been working the land for generations.

George and Dora McClelland purchased the ranch in 2014 to support their own McClelland Dairy, an organic dairy that produces its own artisanal butter and sells its milk to Organic Valley. The McClellands use the Hansen property, which is also certified organic, to help meet the strict organic certification requirements for pasturing dairy cows.

“We are excited to be working with Ag and Open Space District to protect this agricultural land and believe it’s extremely important to the sustainability of the environment to have open, undeveloped areas,” said Jana McClelland, who runs the dairy with her parents. “This partnership will not only help us pass on this agricultural property to the next generation of the McClelland family, but it will also ensure that the property will stay in agriculture for many years to come.”

“The beauty of the District’s work is that we often achieve multiple benefits with a single project,” says District General Manager, Bill Keene. “By working with the McClelland family to conserve Hansen Ranch, we’ve helped to support their dairy business, we’ve prevented future subdivision and kept this land in agriculture, we’ve maintained a beautiful scenic landscape in the beloved Two Rock Valley, and we’re helping to retain natural areas that are important for the health of our residents and our wildlife.”

About the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. The District is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 112,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.


Media contact:
Amy Ricard