Southcoast landowner donates 952-acre easement to POST
The Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) has received a donation of a conservation easement on a 952-acre ranch along Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay. Landowner Kathleen Scutchfield donated the easement, valued at $7.9 million, to preserve the scenic vistas and rich natural resources on the property, known as Toto Ranch.
"I’ve seen how development has been creeping up and down the coast and feel it’s important to make a statement and save this land just as it is, in its open, natural state," said Scutchfield. "POST has done so much to preserve the character of the Coastside, and I want to see that this beautiful land is protected forever."
A native of Texas and a longtime supporter of POST, Scutchfield has called California home since 1971. She co-founded the nonprofit Until There’s a Cure Foundation, which raises funds for AIDS vaccine development, care and services for AIDS patients, and AIDS education. She is also a trustee emeritus of the San Francisco Ballet. An avid equestrian, she lives in Woodside, Calif. She purchased Toto Ranch in 1982 with her late husband, Donald.
The land is currently used for open space and grazing. The easement protects five acres of prime agricultural soils as well as grassland and hardwood and mixed evergreen forest. It also preserves a lengthy corridor of watershed along Tunitas Creek and its tributaries, which provide wildlife habitat for the federally threatened steelhead trout and federally endangered Coho salmon, as well as the California red-legged frog, white-tailed kite, peregrine falcon, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, golden eagle and marbled murrelet.
Highway 1, a designated State Scenic Highway, runs along the western boundary of the property for more than a mile. The ranch offers impressive views of the Pacific Ocean, Tunitas Creek Valley and up the coast to Montara Mountain, Purisima Creek Redwoods and El Corte Madera open space preserves and several large private ranches.
Scutchfield’s donation of a conservation easement to POST employs a powerful tool to protect open space and agricultural land. Easements are agreements between landowners and land trusts that allow individuals to protect natural resources on their own property by voluntarily restricting development on the land. If the property ever changes hands, the protective measures of the easement remain permanently in place.
Given its prime location along Highway 1, the ranch would have been a likely candidate for a luxury second-home subdivision were it not for this easement, according to POST Executive Vice President Walter T. Moore.
"Properties similar to Toto Ranch have become very attractive to extremely wealthy private buyers. Up to seven lots of more than 100 acres could have easily overwhelmed the gentle slopes of this rolling coastal terrain and threatened its watershed and wildlife habitat," Moore said. "Thanks to her donation of this easement to POST, Kathy Scutchfield has made sure that such threats will never occur at Toto Ranch. We are most grateful for her vision and extraordinary generosity."