Protecting open space:
Reforms boost conservation banks
California’s open space — whether wildlife habitat, ranchland or farmland — is in peril.
The pressure of high land values creates a domino effect, with farmers selling prime farmland for development, and ranchers selling grazing land for conversion to intensive agriculture. Such forces reduce open space, wildlife habitat, and range land — and the many ecosystem services it provides (such as water filtration and groundwater recharge).
In response, ranchers are increasingly teaming up with conservation interests to save California’ open space, at-risk species, ranches and farms. The current issue of California Agriculture journal publishes the first comprehensive study of the state's 18-year-old conservation banking program. The reforms proposed are now part of California’s first conservation banking law, SB 1148, enacted in January.
Conservation banks enable farmers, ranchers and other landowners to receive income for managing their lands to benefit wildlife. Ranchers and farmers can address conservation needs, and receive compensation, in other ways as well.
In the video above, Tim Koopmann, a rancher in Sunol, describes how the needs of livestock and wildlife are being simultaneously addressed on his ranch. Koopmann describes the benefits of planning for both cattle and wildlife on annual grasslands in California. Many species of native birds, mammals, and amphibians find a home on Koopmann's ranch. Livestock ponds and adjacent uplands provide habitat for the endangered California tiger salamander and are actively managed with livestock to ensure the survival of this important species.
Ranchers and farmers who wish to maintain wildlife habitat can receive financial assistance through the Conservation Banking program and other programs at the NRCS and local Resource Conservation Districts.
“California is recognized as a world leader in implementing biodiversity offsets as a means to conserve species,” says David Bunn, researcher for the Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis, and lead author of the article in the current issue of California Agriculture journal.