Ag + Open Space and Mattos family conserve organic Petaluma dairy property
Yesterday the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) acquired a conservation easement over the Mattos property – a 700-acre property located in the county’s Second District along Mecham and Pepper Roads, northwest of the City of Petaluma near the Two Rock Valley. The property supports two organic dairies – the upper dairy, which has been in the Mattos family since the 1940s, operated by John and Joni Mattos, and the lower dairy operated by their son, Nick Mattos. The easement is supported by the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) program with funds from California Climate Investments. Ag + Open Space secured a $750,000 grant from SALC and contributed $2.46 million in public funds to acquire the easement protecting this critical agricultural property in perpetuity.
The easement will protect the property’s agricultural values, natural resources, and scenic qualities by significantly limiting development, merging several parcels down to two permanent legal lots, limiting uses in and around its creeks and drainages, and clustering development in designated building envelopes. As part of this transaction, the Mattos family worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to complete a conservation plan designed to restore and enhance riparian habitat on the property.
“Safeguarding our agricultural lands from development and helping farming families stay in business are two of the primary reasons our residents created Ag + Open Space 30 years ago,” says Supervisor David Rabbitt, a member of Ag + Open Space’s Board of Directors and whose district includes the Mattos properties. “As a Board, we welcome these projects that maintain our rural character, support our local economy, and help protect the environment too.”
The Mattos property is comprised of rolling pastures, vegetated creeks, wetlands, and oak woodlands along Mecham and Pepper roads on the edge of the Two-Rock Valley. The property has abundant water for ongoing agricultural use, an ideal climate and terrain for grazing, and more than a quarter of the land 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, 70 acres are located within a key natural groundwater recharge area. By protecting this area from development, Ag + Open Space helps to maintain the water supply for agricultural uses, for human consumption, and for sensitive wildlife habitat.
The property hosts 2.6 miles of creeks, including a small portion of Stemple Creek, a locally important watershed supporting numerous special-status species such as California freshwater shrimp, northwestern pond turtle, tidewater goby, and California red-legged frog. The creeks on the property will have extra protection from designated Natural Areas that are subject to a riparian enhancement and restoration plan designed to enable them to continue their important ecological functions – and for those to improve over time – with management that balances the grazing with ecological protection and enhancement. Stemple Creek is an often overlooked but critically important waterway in west Sonoma and Marin Counties. The water that flows from and through the Mattos Dairies properties makes its way into the Estero de San Antonio, part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the UNESCO Central California coast Biosphere Reserve. The entire watershed is a high priority locally, state-wide, and nationally, for riparian protection, enhancement, and restoration.
Preventing future subdivision and residential development on this property was a priority for Ag + Open Space given its strong agricultural, scenic, and natural resource values and location near existing rural residential development tracts. With the conservation easement on the Mattos Property, there is now a nearly contiguous block of almost 2,900 acres of permanently protected farmland in the Two Rock area.
“The beauty of our work is that we often achieve multiple benefits with a single project,” says Ag + Open Space interim General Manager, Caryl Hart. “By working with the Mattos family to conserve their land, we’ve helped to support their dairy operations, prevented future subdivision in a critical agricultural area, maintained a beloved scenic landscape along a well-traveled road, and helped to retain natural areas that are important for the health of our residents and our wildlife.”
About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space 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 122,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected using funds from a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.
About California Climate Investments
California Climate Investments is a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.