Conservation groups purchase Estero Ranch in $3.8 million deal

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Land conservation partners have finalized the purchase of a scenic coastal ranch that one day will reward visitors with breathtaking, 360-degree views of the Sonoma coastline where the Estero Americano meets the Pacific.

The $3.8 million deal, signed Christmas Eve, puts the 547-acre Estero Americano Coastal Preserve permanently off-limits to development, preserving a rugged, windswept chunk of land targeted for protection for more than two decades.

The property, known previously as the Estero Ranch or the Bottarini Ranch, is located at the boundary of Marin and Sonoma counties and takes in about a mile of frontage along the steep-sided estero, a remote tidal estuary that provides habitat for hundreds of fish and wildlife species.

It also includes about three-quarters of a mile of coastline rising to a point 600 feet above sea level. The acquisition eventually will support a stretch of the California Coastal Trail intended one day to run 1,200 miles along the length of the state, from Mexico to Oregon.

“The opportunity to protect a property of such extraordinary resource value, and add nearly a mile of coastal trail that affords one of the most beautiful views in the county, comes once in a lifetime,” said Dan York, vice president of the Southern California-based Wildlands Conservancy, which has taken title to the ranch.

The purchase, put together by the nonprofit Sonoma Land Trust, was made possible through the collaboration of several of the same agencies that took part in the 2009 acquisition of the 5,630-acre Jenner Headlands Preserve. That land also is owned and managed by The Wildlands Conservancy.

The partner agencies include the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District — funded by a voter-approved, quarter-cent sales tax — which contributed $1.95 million to the overall Estero Ranch purchase.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation contributed close to $1 million, as well, while the California Coastal Conservancy put $900,000 toward the purchase.

“It took all five organizations to get the job done, so it was a great collaboration,” said Amy Chesnut, acquisitions director for the Sonoma Land Trust.

“This is a very exciting property to be able to protect,” Executive Director Dave Koehler said.

The land, which includes environmentally sensitive and biologically diverse coastal prairie habitat, provides critical linkage in the wildlife corridor along the coast, hosting badgers, bobcats, and deer and other species.

It also is in the heart of the Pacific Flyway bird migratory route, offering important forage for waterfowl and raptors.

It will remain in use for cattle grazing, officials said. A 12-acre abalone-farming operation on the property will continue as well.

But a key feature of the transaction is a covenant that will permit passive recreational use in perpetuity, beginning with docent-led tours in the months ahead and, eventually, construction of a public trail connecting up with the county’s Shorttail Gulch Trail on the north.

Located adjacent to the land trust’s 127-acre Estero American Preserve, the property also will help link up a network of public and private open space lands, including Bodega Head, Doran Beach Regional Park and the Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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