Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program
Mariposa County applied for and won the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Planning Grant to fund the creation of a County Agricultural and Working Landscape Conservation Plan (AWLCP). The AWLCP is key to the implementation of specific General Plan tasks, while reinforcing established County policies for the protection and longevity of the County’s long-cherished Ag lands and achieving the State's Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction and climate goals.
With roughly half of the County’s 1,463 square miles designated as Agricultural/Working Land Use under the County’s General Plan, Agriculture is an essential element to the identity of rural Mariposa County. Preserving, nurturing, and enhancing that character is at the heart of the community’s General Plan. While Mariposa County has established policies for conservation of Agriculture and Open Space, agricultural lands are still likely to face conversion risks in the future. The AWLCP reinforces these policies by prescribing a value to agricultural and working lands and demonstrating the importance of conservation planning and related programs (Land Conservation Act).
Additionally, there are fundamental, yet not fully understood, impacts of climate change on all of Mariposa County’s landscapes, including its agricultural ones. As warmer temperatures, changing wildlife behaviors, and catastrophic events like wildfire, drought, and flooding continue to reshape the environment, the sustainability and viability of current agricultural practices becomes increasingly uncertain. Through the SALC project and AWLCP development, the hope is to better understand the critical contributions that Mariposa County’s agricultural lands both currently make, and could make later, to our economic and ecological future.
The resolution to apply for the SALC Program grant was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors on September 10, 2019. The SALC Program protects at-risk agricultural lands from sprawl development in order to promote growth within existing jurisdictions, ensure open space remains available, and support a healthy agricultural economy. To learn more about the State of California's SALC Program, follow this link.
Components of the AWLCP
1. ECOSYSTEM SERVICES/ ENVIRONMENTAL & NATURAL RESOURCE VALUES
Perhaps the most critical element to the proposed AWLCP is the development of ecosystem service values for the County. This component will blend quantitative and qualitative data for the plan. The TerraCount tool is especially important for this plan component. (Ecosystem Services are generally defined as benefits that humans freely gain from the natural environment and from properly-functioning ecosystems. Such ecosystems include, for example, agro-ecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems.)
2. AGRICULTURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
Mariposa County is identified by its open space and rural lifestyle rooted in agriculture, ranching, and unique natural resources. Preservation and enhancement of the County’s rural assets is critical. The identification of potential new economic opportunities through the AWLCP, that could add value to ranching activities, is intended to secure the economic viability of this industry in the future. Potential opportunities include, but are not limited to, carbon sequestration and mitigation banking, and gateway community food-shed contract incentives with Yosemite National Park.
3. EDUCATION AND AWARENESS STRATEGY
The program will establish relationships with key stakeholders, faculty members of regional and local educational establishments, and researchers to promote an open dialogue and input. The proposed AWLCP will include training and educational opportunities that are based on Ecosystem Services.
4. LAND USE POLICY
The AWLCP will be used in future policy planning efforts. These efforts will reflect the knowledge and data acquired through the AWLCP, and will directly assist the state (and county) in meeting GHG and climate goals.
This project will include the formation of a core team to:
- Assess existing ecological and environmental values,
- Assess existing land use policies,
- Assess key social values (such as rural character and aesthetics),
- Establish a baseline of social values throughout the County’s Ag/Working landscapes
- Develop and implement stakeholder engagement activities,
- Identify co-benefits, and
- Ensure the overall success of AWLCP planning and implementation.
The Mariposa County SALC project partners and core team include the Mariposa County Resource Conservation District, California Cattlemen’s Association, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension (UCANR), Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Mariposa Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. The team will play an important and active role in the overall project implementation alongside the selected consultant in order to fulfill the project objectives and tasks for the AWLCP creation and plan adoption.
Please direct any questions to Steve Engfer, Senior Planner, Mariposa County Planning Department. firstname.lastname@example.org // 209.742.1250