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NR 2001-43
May 16, 2001

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886

DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION GRANT
HELPS PROTECT 180 ACRES OF SALINAS VALLEY FARMLAND

Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy
Uses Money to Buy Agricultural Conservation Easement on Dolan Ranch

SALINAS, Calif. -- The Salinas Valley is known as the "Salad Bowl of the World." The weather patterns allow for year-round crop production of a variety of crops. Agriculture represents 40 percent of Monterey County's total economy.

But the county's agricultural land faces development pressure as Bay Area and Silicon Valley workers willing to accept longer commutes in exchange for more affordable housing migrate south.

The Dolan Ranch, 180 acres of prime irrigated farmland, will never be paved over. Using grants totaling more than $1.2 million from the California Department of Conservation and the Packard Foundation, the Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy, Inc., has purchased an agricultural conservation easement on the property. The landowners -- the descendants of Jim and Elva Dolan, who started farming the property in the 1920s -- retain control of the property, but the non-agricultural development potential has been permanently extinguished.

James and Elva Dolan passed the land along to their three daughters, Lorraine Rodriguez and twins Aldene Fanoe and Alda Lauritson. Lorraine Rodriguez passed away last year, leaving her share to her husband Jim and her five children.

"Jim Dolan worked this farm for many years and his wife, Elva, made sure it continued to be used for farming when he passed on," said family member John Fanoe. "Selling the development rights to the property is in keeping with their wishes. Agriculture is a way of life to this family."

California Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young commended the family for taking steps to keep this land in production. "We hope other landowners around the county and the state will follow their lead," he said, adding: "We have worked with the Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy on several projects in the past and congratulate them on their efforts to protect irreplaceable agricultural land."

The Dolan Ranch, which currently grows vegetables and strawberries, is located between the Salinas city limits and the city's water treatment facility on the edge of the Salinas River. Spokesman Sherwood Darington said the land trust hopes the easement encourages the city to grow to the east, on less productive farmland. Founded in 1984, the private, non-profit conservancy has acquired easements on about 6,500 acres of Monterey County land.

"The Dolan Ranch is in the Blanco area, meaning it’s some of the best of the best farmland in the county," Darington said. "We've very proud to play a part in ensuring that the land will be used for agricultural purposes in the future."

California's agricultural production totaled nearly $26.7 billion in 1999; Monterey County's total was $2.37 billion, surpassed in the state only by Fresno and Tulare counties. But California's population of more than 33 million is expected to grow to 50 million by 2025, and many acres of farmland are being developed to accommodate that growth. According to DOC's Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, nearly 43,000 acres of agricultural land -- an area about the size of the city of Modesto -- was urbanized between 1996 and 1998.

"The needs of a growing population and the needs of agriculture don't always dovetail," said DOC Director Young. "But the California Farmland Conservancy Program offers a partnership between landowners, land trusts and government agencies that helps to balance the needs of both sides."

The California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP), administered by the Department of Conservation's Division of Land Resource Protection, gave the land trust $601,865 to purchase the easement. The Packard Foundation, which provides national and international grants in a variety of areas, contributed $604,300.

The CFCP is designed to ensure that the state's most valuable farmland will not be developed. Through the program, local governments and non-profit organizations can receive grants to purchase development rights from willing landowners, thus creating permanent conservation. CFCP funds remain for new grant proposals. Landowners and land trusts are encouraged to contact the Department of Conservation/Division of Land Resource Protection for information on the program and potential grant funding. The division's Web address is www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp.

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