As an organization we have identified four priority conservation areas in the tri-county region including irrigated farmland, grasslands used for ranching, non-working landscapes, and land needing protection for mitigation purposes. In an effort to meet these conservation needs head on, The Northern California Regional Land Trust (The Land Trust) now has developed four well-defined conservation programs we hope will galvanize the community as a whole.
One of the primary goals of The Land Trust’s Strategic Plan is agricultural land protection. This includes identifying prime agricultural lands and natural areas that protect and enhance the unique characteristics of Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties and providing information to those landowners who want to conserve their land in perpetuity. The Land Trust serves Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties where 425,014 acres of prime farmland were mapped by the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program in 2004. Using those data, Butte County is comprised of approximately 197,556 acres of Prime Farmland; Glenn County 162,670 acres and Tehama County 64,788 acres. Implementing our Irrigated Farmland Protection Project (IFPP) and achieving our land protection agreement acquisition objectives require both willing buyers and sellers. The concept of agricultural conservation is relatively new to the region, and farmers are not aware of their options of permanent land protection that land protection agreements can provide. The Land Trust is conducting an extensive landowner outreach program in an effort to foster long term agricultural land protection of the tri-county region.
The Land Trust has partnered with California FarmLink to facilitate development of a FarmLink program in the North State. The goal of FarmLink is to facilitate the conservation of working lands by connecting aspiring farmers to available agricultural lands and/or retiring farmers. Nationwide, the average farmer is 58 years old, and half of them are expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. At the same time however, there has been a rise in the number of people interested in entering an agricultural profession. The Land Trust believes connecting aspiring farmers to available land resources is a strategy that both sustain regional agricultural and helps conserve our working landscape. A recent survey of beginning farmers and ranchers in the North Valley identified that the primary barrier to a career in agriculture is access to land. To that end, developing innovative land-linking opportunities between those looking to start farming and farmers who are either retiring or have available land, is a crucial step toward breaking down the land access barrier in the North Valley. The Northern California Regional Land Trust and California FarmLink have developed such an opportunity through a collaborative partnership aimed at matching North Valley landowners with aspiring farmers and ranchers in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties. With the goals of protecting farmland, strengthening independent family farms, and building sustainable food systems, the Land Trust and California FarmLink hope to help a new generation of aspiring farmers and ranchers find opportunities for accessing farmland.
California cattlemen, conservationists, and state and federal resource agency officials held a historic summit January 11, 2007 in Sacramento, California. The Land Trust’s former Executive Director Jamison Watts attended the all-day conference, which was called to develop a broad action plan to implement the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Resolution, a statement of joint goals reached last year. As a signatory of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Resolution, The Land Trust works collaboratively with cattlemen, conservationists, and state and federal resource agency officials to protect and enhance the rangeland landscape that encircles California’s Central Valley and includes adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands by: 1. Keeping common species common on private working landscapes; 2. Working to recover imperiled species and enhancing habitat on rangelands while seeking to minimize regulations on private lands and streamline processes; 3. Supporting the long-term viability of the ranching industry and its culture by providing economic, social and other incentives and by reducing burdens to proactive stewardship on private ranchlands; 4. Increasing private, state and federal funding, technical expertise and other assistance to continue and expand the ranching community’s beneficial land stewardship practices that benefit sensitive species and are fully compatible with normal ranching practices; 5. Encouraging voluntary, collaborative and locally-led conservation that has proven to be very effective in maintaining and enhancing working landscapes; 6. Educating the public about the benefits of grazing and ranching in these rangelands. There are approximately 2,181,791 acres of rangeland in our tri-county region. With a projected increase of approximately 18 million people in the State’s population in the next 25 years, much of this land is at risk of disappearing forever. The Land Trust’s Rangeland Protection Program specifically targets regional rangeland for conservation.
The majority of our easements are considered wildlands, which we define as non-working landscapes (i.e., non-farming and/or ranching lands) with high conservation value. Wildlands are typically comprised of high-functioning natural community-types such as conifer forests, mixed woodlands, wetlands, grasslands and riparian areas. They provide scenic vistas, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and clean water and air, and enhance the quality of life of present and future residents and visitors in Butte, Glenn and Tehama Counties.
Northern California is experiencing sharp increases in urban growth and impacts to sensitive natural resources are occurring at an accelerating rate. Development related projects and activities that impact legally protected natural resources (e.g., Waters of the United States, and habitat supporting and/or species listed under the Endangered Species Act), require mitigation under one or more local, state or federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act, and Federal Endangered Species Act. Acceptable mitigation often results in the permanent preservation of land supporting in-kind resources located in the same region or watershed as the impacted land, or habitat creation/restoration/enhancement projects on lands that have already been protected. Such projects require competent, long-term managers experienced with conserving lands and natural resources. The Northern California Regional Land Trust (The Land Trust) is such an entity. The Land Trust has strong expertise in creating conservation projects and managing lands and easements in perpetuity. The Land Trust also assists permitting agencies, project proponents and the public by offering high quality, professional services that help assure mitigation projects in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties are well designed, have adequate financial resources, and a competent holder.