SACRAMENTO -- Already
heavily urbanized, Orange County saw
another 3,397 acres of land -- including
972 acres of farmland -- converted to
urban uses between 1998-2000, mapping
completed by the California Department
of Conservation shows.
Thousands of acres of
farmland or grazing land are being
urbanized or otherwise taken out of
agricultural use around the state,
according to the Farmland Mapping and
Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of DOC's
Division of Land Resource Protection.
In Orange County, a
net total of 1,614 acres of agricultural
land were reclassified to urban land by
the FMMP. Also, 1,783 acres of "other"
land -- neither built-up nor used for
agriculture, such as wetlands,
low-density "ranchettes" or brush and
timberlands unsuitable for grazing --
were reclassified as urban.
Looking ahead, 2,781
acres -- 747 of it agricultural -- were
committed to non-agricultural use.
Typically, this is land earmarked for
development. In some cases the
development, such as sanitary sewer
installation, already may be underway.
In the 1996-98
mapping cycle, Orange County added 7,740
new acres of urban land; 1,951 acres of
that was cultivated land.
The FMMP maps 44.1
million acres of California's public and
private land to produce a major study
every two years. The latest, Farmland
Conversion Report 1996-98, was released
last fall. About 70,000 acres were
urbanized throughout the state. More
than 43,000 acres of the new urban land,
an area about the size of the city of
Modesto, was developed on agricultural
DOC's maps help local
entities evaluate land use planning
decisions. Orange County planning
officials and interested organizations
such as the county Farm Bureau, Local
Agency Formation Commission, planning
consultants and area resource
conservation districts have received
"We do this to help
counties plan and prepare for their
expected growth in the coming years,"
explained Department of Conservation
Director Darryl Young. "This information
is a tool that can help Orange County
and other local governments balance the
needs of a growing population with those
of the agricultural economy."
agricultural land will continue to face
development pressure in the foreseeable
future. The California Department of
Finance projects that the county's
population will grow from its current
2,846,289 to nearly 3,300,000 by 2020.
According to the
California Department of Food and
Agriculture, Orange County ranks No. 20
among California counties in gross value
of agricultural production at
$341,621,000 for 1999. Primary crops
include nursery stock and cut flowers,
strawberries, tomatoes and peppers.
Where is land
conversion occurring in Orange County?
The FMMP found the following examples:
A dozen housing
developments going up on farmland in
the Tustin area, including one of 200
of housing developments on grazing or
other land in the San Juan Capistrano
area, including one of 180 acres and
another of 100.
Nearly 300 acres of
new homes and a golf course in the
hills of San Clemente.
Department of Conservation, the state
offers programs that provide financial
incentives to keep land in agricultural
use. The California Farmland Conservancy
Program makes grants available to local
governments, land trusts or resource
conservation districts to purchase
permanent agricultural conservation
easements from willing landowners. These
easements prohibit future development.
Farmland Security Zone and Williamson
Act contracts provide potential tax
breaks to landowners who commit to
keeping their land in agricultural use
for periods of 20 or 10 years,