Spanning more than 6,700 acres along San Mateo County’s remote coastline, POST-protected Cloverdale Ranch in Pescadero is one of the largest contiguous open spaces in the region. When we began protecting this expansive and beneficial landscape in 1997, we knew caring for it would be a long and challenging endeavor. Now, 25 years later, we’re working on the possibility of transferring much of the property to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) to manage as public open space in perpetuity.
A segment from Episode 72 of OpenRoad with Doug McConnell that explores Cloverdale Ranch and details POST’s work in restoring this precious landscape.
One reason stewarding this land is so complex, apart from its size, is its mosaic of topographic features. Miles of forested hilltops overlook the largest coastal terrace prairie in the county and the third largest in the state. The rolling rangelands are dotted with cattle, whose grazing reduces the presence of weedy invaders in the native grasslands and decreases risk from wildfire. Myriad animals call the property home, including badgers, burrowing owls, grasshopper sparrows and colorful and endemic San Francisco garter snakes.
Cloverdale Ranch was slated for development into low-density luxury estates before POST stepped in, and we have since conserved more than 8,200 acres, some of which have been purchased by farmers or incorporated into Pigeon Point Light Station, Butano and Año Nuevo State Parks. This expansive landscape boasts roughly 15 miles of stream habitat for endangered coho and steelhead salmon, more than 700 acres of farms, 4,500 acres of grassland and 2.5 miles of iconic coastline.
The land offers a multitude of natural benefits including habitat for wildlife, prime soil for our local food supply, three healthy watersheds and significant carbon sequestration, all of which contribute to the environmental health of our region. Cloverdale Ranch is the backbone for so much life along this stretch of coastline. Its preservation demonstrates how POST has long been a leader in multi-benefit conservation. Projects like this illustrate exactly what the nation and state are aiming for with their initiatives to protect 30% of land and water by the year 2030.
After protecting this property, we leased smaller parcels to local farmers as part of our effort to preserve the region’s rich agricultural heritage. A burgeoning network of local, POST-protected farms and ranches are now in operation, all of which either lease or have purchased land from us over the years: R&R Fresh Farms, Fifth Crow Farm, Root Down Farm, Fly Girl Farm, Steadfast Herbs, Peninsula Farms, Bolsa Point Farms, Markegard Family Grassfed and long-time ranching families the Silvas and the Dinellis.
POST is dedicated to ensuring the best possible future for agriculture on these lands. In addition to providing access to productive soil, we’ve invested in much-needed improvements to infrastructure like barns, a bridge, wells and farmworker housing (in partnership with San Mateo County). We’ve worked closely with the San Mateo Resource Conservation District on water-related projects, restoring over a mile of Butano Creek and reconnecting it with more than 100 acres of its historic floodplain, as well as expanding water storage like ponds and reservoirs that make farms, ranches and adjoining creeks more resilient to drought conditions
Cloverdale Ranch’s abundant natural and man-made ponds and reservoirs also provide ideal habitat for many species, including the threatened California red-legged frog, the main prey for the endangered San Francisco garter snake. It was through pond restoration that POST truly learned how to work with the competing needs of ranchers and farmers while safeguarding magnificent, wild creatures.
POST, our partners, farmers and ranchers are just the latest caretakers of this land. For millennia, many Indigenous groups called Cloverdale Ranch and the surrounding area home, including ancestors of the contemporary Muwekma Ohlone and Ramaytush Ohlone tribes. Much of what the landscape is today is the result of their cultural footprint — thousands of years tending to the land and cultivating relationships with native flora and fauna. We hope to rekindle and build upon these connections in the future.
Our intent has always been to temporarily steward this landscape and transfer ownership to others for long-term care. Now, we are working with our partners at Midpen to explore transferring much of the upland habitat to them, while also looking for opportunities to turn farming parcels over to farmers, subject to easements that require continued production on the land.
With this plan in mind, we’re fulfilling a vision of a resilient coastal ecosystem of protected and connected natural lands thriving alongside local farms and ranches. Cloverdale Ranch’s regional significance is unmistakable — for the economy, local communities and the environment.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more