David Castellon" />

California Strategic Growth Council has awarded more than $1 million to local agencies in an effort to preserve farm and ranch land. Photo by David Castellon

published on January 23, 2020 - 2:52 PM
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Madera County is one of 19 California counties slated to divide $57 million in grant money to fund efforts to preserve agricultural land.

The California Strategic Growth Council recently awarded the money to promote infill development — constructing new homes, businesses and roads within cities and other areas already developed —rather than building on farms and ranchlands, so they will stay in ag production.

Sierra Foothill Conservancy in Fresno County is slated to receive $806,500 to purchase easements on 1,729 acres of irrigated grazing land in the county, which would prevent it from being developed.

In addition, Madera County would receive $200,000 to establish an easement-purchasing program to identify agricultural lands affected by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, with a goal of incentivizing landowners to utilize less water-intensive irrigation practices, preserve prime agricultural land and keep the state’s valuable farm and ranch lands available for agricultural production, states a press release from the SGC.

The grant money is coming from California cap-and-trade dollars in the fifth round of SGC’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, which will fund six planning grants and 31 agricultural conservation easements in regions across the state.

“We are thrilled that these funds will enable California communities to conserve and protect more than 20,000 acres of agricultural land in California,” Louise Bedsworth, SGC’s executive director, said in a written statement. “These Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program investments align with the California Strategic Growth Council’s vision for healthy, thriving, resilient communities for all by promoting infill development and ensuring that our farm and ranch lands remain available to produce food and capture and store carbon.”

SGC awarded just over $55.5 million to land trusts and local governments working with farm and ranch owners to implement agricultural easements to conserve their properties. These projects were selected based on their risk of being converted to other uses, their potentials to promote infill development and their agricultural, economic and ecological values, the press release states.

The counties receiving the grants extend from Plumas County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. Together, these easements will protect 20,864 acres, the press release continues.

SGC also awarded just over $1.4 million in planning grants to help local governments prepare to conserve agricultural lands while planning for increased housing and other critical needs.

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