Innovation in Preserving Agricultural Lands
By Beth Wylie
B.A. Archeology, 2010 and M.S. Earth Systems, 2011
I am working for Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in Palo Alto. This trust protects open space through land purchase and conservation easements. Conservation easements are legal agreements that allow a land trust to work with a landowner to keep natural lands protected forever. POST holds easements in perpetuity, thus protecting the land from development. Because the land continues to be privately owned, public access is allowed only at the discretion of the landowner. However, POST also purchases land and when appropriate, sells it to public agencies such as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) or state parks. POST recently completed such a transfer of a 97.5 acre property to MROSD, which will expands the connection between Skyline and Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves! If you’re in the area, check them out here
My primary project for POST has been researching innovative methods of conserving agricultural land. Although POST is mostly focused on conservation values, they do have easements on and lease several working ranches and farms. Farmers generally prefer not to lease because it does not allow them to build equity in their property. That is, if a farmer needs a loan, the bank would have a hard time lending to them because they don’t own property that can help guarantee the loan. At the same time, agricultural property on the peninsula is prime for “ranchettes,” or second/retirement home properties. These estate buyers do not have a problem adhering to a conservation easement and they like the ruralness of farmland. The estate market drives up prices significantly so that farmland is no longer affordable for farmers. In response to all of that, I am looking into new ways to write easements that keep the price low as well as researching unique lease strategies that allow the farmers to build equity.
Today, I had the chance to visit, for the second time, the Wavecrest property in Half Moon Bay. This property is on a beautiful coastal bluff and will ideally help continue the California Coastal Trail. It’s an excellent example of how POST is protecting open space both for conservation and the public interest. The summer has been interesting so far, and I am excited to be learning more about how we protect land at POST!
Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns »