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NR 2006-22
August 29, 2006

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

BRIAN R. LEAHY BRINGS EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND
TO DOC LAND CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

Read a feature story about Brian R. Leahy

SACRAMENTO – Saying, “He’s a perfect fit,” Department of Conservation Director Bridgett Luther today welcomed Brian R. Leahy as the new assistant director in charge of the Division of Land Resource Protection (DLRP).

“The Division of Land Resource Protection has the challenge of helping to balance the needs of the state's growing population with the needs of agriculture,” Luther said. “Brian was a rancher for 20 years and has worked with a number of agricultural organizations. He also has a background in the law. His diverse experience gives him a unique perspective that will help our efforts.”

Leahy served as director of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts from 2004 until last January. In that capacity, he worked closely with DLRP and many of the division’s constituents, such as the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and CALFED.

From 2000-2004, Leahy was president of California Certified Organic Farmers, a nonprofit organization that certifies 1,200 members representing about $1 billion in organic sales. He helped the organization expand its market and its outreach to the public.

Leahy was on the board of directors of the Organic Trade Association in 2003-2004, a member of the California Biotechnology Task Force Advisory Committee (2001), and has served in a wide variety of positions with groups interested in agricultural issues in California and Nebraska.

From 1980-2001, Leahy was the owner and operator of Cherokee Ranch, Inc. in Chico, a 900-acre rice farm on the cutting edge of the organic and biodiversity movement.

Leahy earned his Juris Doctor at the Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1997 and was admitted to practice law in Nebraska and Illinois. He worked for a time for the Legal Aid Society in Omaha.

“I feel well prepared for this new challenge and look forward to working with the great people at the Division of Land Resource Protection who have done so much for agriculture in California,” Leahy said.

Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Leahy to the position. No Senate confirmation is required.

DLRP administers or supports several programs designed to balance the land needs of California’s agricultural economy with population growth. The population of California is expected to increase from its current 33 million to 50 million by 2025.

The Williamson Act is DLRP's best known land preservation tool. It provides landowners tax incentives to enter contracts keeping their land in agricultural use for 10-year periods. The Farmland Security Zone program, sometimes called the "Super Williamson Act," provides for 20-year contracts.

DLRP's California Farmland Conservation Program provides grants that enable land trusts and other non-profit organizations to buy permanent agricultural easements from willing landowners, shielding some of the state’s best farmland from development forever.

DLRP's Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program tracks land-use changes statewide, producing maps that local government officials can use to guide their planning decisions, as well as a statewide report every two years.

The division also supports and provides technical assistance for the 103 local resource conservation districts (RCDs) in the state. Traditionally involved in helping farmers with conservation issues, RCDs have expanded to address urban issues, such as watershed restoration. They are involved in protecting, conserving and restoring natural resources through education, information and technical assistance programs.

In addition to supporting land conservation, the Department of Conservation promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells in the state; studies and maps earthquakes, landslides and mineral resources; and ensures reclamation of land used for mining.

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