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Paul Ringgold and Jeff Powers, with Peninsula Open Space Trust, at the newly acquired 903 acre Butano Farms in Pescadero, Calif. on Wednesday, Dec 19 , 2012. (John Green/Staff)

PESCADERO -- More than 900 acres of picturesque coastal hills and farmland will be preserved from possible development into luxury homes under a major acquisition announced this week by the Peninsula Open Space Trust.

The trust paid $9.96 million for the land, known as Butano Farms, which has been used for ranching as well as vegetable and flower production for the past century. The northern end of the property runs right up to downtown Pescadero, a tiny oceanside community that is increasingly desirable to Silicon Valley multimillionaries who want to own a rustic retreat.

The land will be incorporated into Cloverdale Coastal Ranches, a 5,800-acre property just to the south also owned by POST. The purchase creates an open space corridor that stretches roughly 10 miles from Pescadero State Beach to Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

Walter Moore, president of the trust, said Butano Farms is one of POST's most significant purchases of the past 10 years. The deal, he said, accomplishes several things at once.

"It represents everything we're trying to do," Moore said. "Protecting scenic beauty and wildlife habitat, preserving farmland to produce locally grown food, and providing linkages between protected lands that benefit both people and wildlife."

Besides about 50 acres of prime agricultural soil and vast slopes now grazed by cattle, Butano Farms features a unique 140-acre willow marsh, a dense tangle of woods surrounding a 1.6-mile portion of Butano Creek that serves as habitat for threatened steelhead and waterfowl. The trust plans to protect this area while allowing agriculture to continue elsewhere on the property. In the long term POST aims to establish a public trail.

The trust purchased the land from the Dias family, whose patriarch, John Dias Sr., came to the United States as a child in 1885 from the Azores Islands. The remaining members of the family sold to POST rather than seek more money on the open market.

The property would have been particularly attractive for development, according to POST, because San Mateo County regulations would have permitted the construction of as many as 10 homes. The land would have promised both expansiveness and privacy --its interior hilltops yield spectacular panoramic views stretching as far as the Marin Headlands but cannot be seen from the roads below.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.