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State issues grant to purchase Petaluma ranch

Mark Glen walks on his 230-acre Glenn Ranch just a few miles east of Petaluma. The property is a potential Open Space District acquisition. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

GUY KOVNER, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s open space district has secured a $300,000 state grant for prospective acquisition of development rights to a 230-acre cattle ranch in the rolling hills on the southwest flank of Petaluma, officials said Thursday.

The grant — from a new state fund aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions — is intended to help finance the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District’s purchase of a conservation easement over the ranch owned by Mark and Lori Glenn, located on the D Street Extension near the city’s southern boundary.

Statewide, a total of $4.6 million in grants awarded by the California Strategic Growth Council will protect more than 14,000 acres of farmland, preventing urban sprawl and avoiding increased greenhouse gas emissions associated with development of rural land, officials said.

Misti Arias, acquisition program manager for the open space district, said there’s a twofold gain for clean air in preserving agriculture: maintaining grasslands and soil that sequester carbon and avoiding vehicle traffic by the occupants of new homes built outside cities.

The Glenn Ranch could potentially be subdivided into three parcels, which would be too small for grazing cattle, Arias said. Another reason for avoiding future development of their land is to preserve open space on a scenic gateway to Petaluma, she said.

The Glenns and the district must still negotiate the terms for acquiring the conservation easement, Arias said. The deal will require the district to put up at least a matching $300,000, if not more, she said. The Glenns could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Gov. Jerry Brown ramped up the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goal last month, calling for emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. Transportation accounts for 37 percent of the state’s emissions, which total nearly 460 million metric tons a year. Agriculture contributes 8 percent of emissions, including methane from cattle.

The growth council’s package of $122 million in grants and loans to 28 organizations — including the $4.6 million for agricultural preservation — will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 723,286 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 140,483 cars off the road for one year, according to a press release jointly issued by the open space district and the council.

Sonoma County’s district was one of only seven organizations awarded a grant for ag preservation, the release said.

Bill Keene, the district general manager, said in the release it was “another example of the district seeking outside sources of funding to stretch taxpayer dollars” spent on permanent protection of county farmland. Since 1990, the district — supported by a voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax — has protected more than 106,000 acres.

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said in the press release that the grants recognize “the important role of California’s farmers and ranchers as partners in our state’s efforts to adapt to climate change and its effects, including drought.”

The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, source of the grant money, receives proceeds from the state cap-and-trade auctions.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemo​crat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.