SACRAMENTO -- While
agriculture remains a mainstay of Butte
County's economy, farmland is being
converted to urban uses at an increasing
pace and a significant amount of
farmland was restored to natural uses,
according to a map released today by the
California Department of Conservation.
The map is designed to help local
governments evaluate land-use planning
The Farmland Mapping
and Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of
DOC's Division of Land Resource
Protection, 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 as the rate of urbanization
rose 25 percent from the previous
two-year survey period. More than 43,000
acres of the new urban land, an area
about the size of the city of Modesto,
was developed on agricultural land.
Butte County is among
the first to be mapped in the 1998-2000
cycle. A net total of 589 acres of
agricultural land -- including 410 acres
of irrigated farmland -- were
reclassified as urban land by the FMMP.
During the previous mapping cycle, 181
acres of Butte County agricultural land,
including 77 acres of irrigated land,
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 in
the 1998-2000 cycle. The reversion of
irrigated farmland to marshes near the
Sacramento River on the Butte-Glenn
county line contributed to the
reclassification of 5,028 net acres of
farmland as "other" land.
Of the 917,909 acres
mapped in Butte County, 522,297 were in
agricultural use, 40,185 acres were
urbanized, 21,643 acres were water and
333,784 acres were "other."
The map has been sent
to Butte 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 mapping
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 Butte County and other local
governments balance the needs of a
growing population with those of the
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
212,000 to about 294,000 by 2020.
According to the
California Department of Food and
Agriculture, Butte ranks No. 23 out of
58 among California counties in gross
value of agricultural production ($287
million in 1999). Primary crops include
rice, almonds, prunes and walnuts.
The FMMP found the
following examples of agricultural land
being urbanized in Butte County:
A 100-acre housing
development in Nord, southwest of
businesses and a new school (Marsh
Junior High) around Chico.
New subdivisions in
southwestern Gridley and south Biggs.
Airport Business Park and a new
self-storage lot in that city.
Department of Conservation, the state
offers programs that provide financial
incentives to keep land in agricultural
use. The California Farmland Conservancy
Program makes monies 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,
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