Lucasfilm Foundation Grants $2 Million to Marin Agricultural Land Trust

Funds Used to Keep Historic Ranch in Production and Protect Novato Creek Watershed

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Filmmaker George Lucas (left) and MALT Executive Director Robert Berner (right) at the Corda Ranch, the 67th family ranch protected from development by a MALT conservation easement. (Photo by Paige Green)

Filmmaker George Lucas (left) and MALT Executive Director Robert Berner (right) at the Corda Ranch, the 67th family ranch protected from development by a MALT conservation easement. (Photo by Paige Green)

“The farms and ranches of Marin are an important resource for the entire Bay Area," says George Lucas. "By supporting MALT's protection of the Corda Ranch, we're helping to ensure that these diverse habitats are well-managed now and in the future."

Point Reyes Station, CA (PRWEB) June 02, 2011

Lucasfilm Foundation, the private charitable enterprise founded by legendary filmmaker George Lucas, has granted $2 million to Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), a 501(c)(3) public charity. The funds were used last week to acquire an agricultural conservation easement valued at $2,913,000 on the historic Corda Ranch, a 1,214-acre property located just west of Novato, California. The remainder of the acquisition funds were provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

MALT's conservation easement will help keep this fifth-generation family-run ranch in agricultural production, prevent future subdivision or non-agricultural development on the property, and protect the headwaters of Novato Creek, the primary tributary of Stafford Lake, an important part of Novato's water supply.

George Lucas has taken an active interest in the landscape of Marin since bringing his Lucasfilm operations to Skywalker Ranch near Nicasio in the late 1970’s. Today, Skywalker Properties owns several ranches in the area covering more than 6,100 acres, most of which are protected by MALT agricultural conservation easements.

“As a long-time resident of Marin, the county's natural open spaces are very important to me," Lucas explained. "Since we first made the move here in 1979, we've always worked to preserve the landscape and the environment. We need to respect and protect the land while we're here, so that future generations can also appreciate its beauties and its benefits."

“The farms and ranches of Marin are an important resource for the entire Bay Area," Lucas continued. "By supporting MALT's protection of the Corda Ranch, we're helping to ensure that these diverse habitats are monitored and well-managed now and in the future."

Across the United States, two acres of farmland are paved over for development every minute. In Marin County, however, a coordinated effort by concerned citizens, ranchers and farmers, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, has been bucking this trend for over 30 years. Since its founding in 1980, MALT has permanently protected more than 40% of the private family farm and ranch land in Marin County.

Robert Berner, Executive Director at MALT, explained the importance of protecting agricultural properties such as the Corda Ranch, saying, "Family farms and ranches in Marin face tremendous pressure to give in to residential development. Large properties such as the Corda Ranch are threatened as the market for country-style luxury homes and estates keeps increasing. By permanently preserving this ranch for agricultural uses, we're helping to maintain the critical mass of farming operations required to sustain agriculture as a viable component of Marin County's economy for generations to come."

The Corda family has owned this spectacular ranch since the early 1900's. Agricultural operations on the ranch include raising beef cattle and dairy heifers, as well as silage crop production for a local dairy. Without the sale of a conservation easement to MALT, the family would have likely been forced to subdivide the ranch and sell parcels to settle estate issues.

"Our family has been tending this land for over a hundred years," said Fred Corda, who will retain ownership of the property, along with his wife and two adult sons, and continue agricultural operations. "I'm sure that in the beginning, no one ever dreamed that property values would grow so high and the pressure to sell would be so great. But now, thanks to MALT, we know this ranch will always be protected for agriculture, and that's really important to us as stewards of the land."

A special feature of the Corda Ranch is that it comprises 13% of the Stafford Lake watershed, including the headwaters of Novato Creek, the primary tributary to Stafford Lake and an important part of Novato's drinking water system. MALT's easement will help permanently protect water quality through the establishment of special creek conservation areas, which will be managed according to a plan that is approved by MALT and updated at least every ten years. Additionally, the protection of the Corda Ranch will preserve the many natural habitats that exist there, including wet meadows and native grasslands, rare oak woodland savannahs, chamise chaparral hillsides, and well-vegetated riparian corridors.

Lincoln “Ed” Burton, California State Conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which contributed $950,000 for the Corda Ranch easement, says the project is important for both agriculture and the environment. “The Corda Ranch project fully embodies the intentions of our Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program,” he said. "We at NRCS share with MALT and the Lucasfilm Foundation the vision of keeping agriculture an important part of the California landscape where all types of ecosystem services may be sustained — from fresh local foods, to open space, to healthy functioning ecosystems. We value the public-private partnership that this easement demonstrates.”

Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) is a member-supported nonprofit organization created in 1980 by a coalition of ranchers and environmentalists to preserve farmland in Marin County, California. With financial support from individuals, public agencies and private foundations, MALT has permanently protected nearly half of the working farm and ranch land in Marin County. MALT also encourages public policies that support and enhance agriculture. Visit http://www.malt.org for more information.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources & Conservation Service works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals for productive lands and healthy ecosystems. For more information, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.

Lucasfilm Foundation is the charitable foundation supported by Lucasfilm, Ltd., a privately held entertainment company founded by George Lucas in 1971.

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