Conserving Our Watersheds (COW)

Program History

The West Marin agricultural community has actively implemented projects with the Marin RCD since the 1960s. Successful partnerships have formed between local, state and federal funders, and agricultural producers who have found commonality in restoration goals. Years of practical experience and trust have led to comprehensive watershed enhancement projects. Some outcomes of completed projects include increases in bird populations and increases in the presence of anadromous fish at restored sites. The Marin RCD culminated this effort into one program, Conserving Our Watersheds (COW) Program.

The goal of the COW program is to support agriculture and the environment by implementing successful voluntary environmental improvements on agricultural lands in West Marin’s watersheds. The objective is to reduce fine sediment delivery by 75-95% for repairs to headcuts, gullies and streambanks; and to reduce fine sediment delivery by 50-75% for riparian fencing and revegetation projects.  Another important goal is to continue to build excellent stewardship practices into the everyday work of ranching and farming in west Marin County.

This is accomplished by providing private landowners and agricultural producers with:  

1) project planning and permitting assistance,  

2) technical/engineering expertise,  

3) construction contractors, and  

4) maintenance and monitoring assistance.     


To accomplish this work, Marin RCD has fundraised over $2.6 million dollars matched by an additional $1.4 million from private landowners/lessees, other Marin RCD grants including the Marin County Measure A Sale Tax Ordinance, and local natural resource partners: United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (UDSA NRCS), Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), Point Blue Conservation Science’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) volunteers, and the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Marin Permit Coordination Program (PCP)

The COW program utilizes the Marin Permit Coordination Program (PCP), which provides coordinated regulatory review for implementation. Forty-four (44) types of conservation and restoration practices are intended for grazing lands to reduce erosion, reduce greenhouse gases, enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat and assist ranchers with sound stewardship in the Marin County coastal watersheds. Visit our PCP webpage for full list of covered conservation practices, past approved projects, and links to NRCS practice descriptions.

Project Selection

Projects are selected through a process that has proven highly successful for other recent Marin RCD grant programs:  First, landowners and local groups submit candidate projects through an open proposal process. Second, a Technical Advisory Committee visits, reviews and ranks the projects, and then make recommendations to the Marin RCD Board for approval. 

 The implementation of management practices are designed to have a significant beneficial effect on the environment and ecological processes within the watershed: 

1) Reduce erosion and sedimentation to improve important spawning areas & reduce sedimentation of estuarine habitats. 

2) Reducing the amount of pathogens entering the watershed by fencing out stream corridors thereby improving waters for recreational uses. 

3) Planting along streams to cool stream temperatures for wildlife habitat & provide improved habitats for threatened & endangered species. 

4) Reduce runoff pollution by fencing out riparian areas, installing biotechnical streambank repairs, planting stream corridors & repairing gully erosion. 

5) Improve upstream grazing lands to indirectly improve water quality at nearby beaches, estuaries & coastal waters by reducing pathogens,  E. coli, sediments and nutrients.

If you would like to participate in the COW program please contact the Marin RCD at (415) 787-7452, or send us an email.

Want to see more COW projects? Click below for the Marin RCD Project Tracker and search for Conserving Our Watersheds!

Over the past 15 years, the COW program has been successful due to our close partnerships with the farmers and ranchers of Marin and local agricultural technical service providers: