Conservation Grazing on the San Mateo Coast

Aerial view of Toto Ranch looking south. Dry Creek and Tunitas Creek riparian corridors comprise much of the northern border of the ranch. Photo credit: POST

Commendations to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) Board members for their unanimous approval of a five-year conservation grazing lease with the Markegard family on the 953-acre Toto Ranch, just south of Tunitas Creek on the San Mateo coast.

Conservation grazing is distinguished from conventional ranching in that its primary purpose is to carry out conservation goals of protecting and increasing grassland habitat biodiversity. MROSD has adopted conservation grazing goals on coastal Open Space Preserves that (1) maintain and enhance the biodiversity of threatened grassland habitat, (2) manage vegetation fuel for fire protection, and (3) support local coastal agricultural uses.

The Markegard family uses what is referred to as regenerative grazing practices. These practices improve soil health, conserve water, enhance the diversity of native plant and animal communities, and help foster appreciation for the coastside’s rural agricultural heritage. We look forward to more ranchers adopting conservation grazing practices that help achieve MROSD goals in the future.

Supportive of MROSD Coastside Mission Statement

Green Foothills has been supportive of MROSD’s Coastside Mission Statement that it adopted after expanding its boundaries to include the coast in 2004: “To acquire and preserve in perpetuity open space land and agricultural land of regional significance, protect and restore the natural environment, preserve rural character, encourage viable agricultural use of land resources, and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.” 

We wanted to be sure that the productive farm fields and hillside grazing lands remain in agricultural use, wherever feasible. While strict zoning regulations have prevented subdivision of large land holdings on the coast, the increased value of farmland over time has threatened to replace family farms with McMansions, often with only token farming or none at all. 

MROSD and its conservation partner, Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) have stepped up to help support small, local farmers and ranchers while preserving open space and providing for public access. We welcome their efforts as it’s more important than ever to have sustainable, viable, local sources of food to increase our resilience to the effects of climate change and help people who live in increasingly urbanized areas feel a connection to our productive farmlands.

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