Increasing the public benefits of agricultural conservation easements: an illustration with the Central Valley Farmland Trust in the San Joaquin Valley
Agricultural conservation easements (ACEs) involve the significant expenditure of public funds through either tax benefits and/or direct public expenditures. The selection of agricultural parcels for conservation should, therefore, maximise net public benefits to the extent possible within financial constraints and the need for agricultural viability to maintain working landscapes. Some programmes select agricultural parcels for conservation easements based only on agricultural viability and/or land cost, however, without explicit consideration of the many other public benefits often associated with ACEs. This paper illustrates application of a method for increasing the public benefits of agricultural conservation easements through a case study in the northern San Joaquin Valley of California. The method is a strategic planning process that incorporates both a GIS-based quantitative assessment and a more qualitative assessment. Such an approach is a supplement to - rather than a substitute for - the more science-based Landscape Evaluation and Site Evaluation (LESA) approach developed by the US Soil Conservation Service (SCS) and cost-minimisation approaches that emphasise economic considerations. However, we show that public land use planning and regulatory policies are essential for agricultural conservation. Acquisition strategies in isolation will not be successful without complementary public regulatory policies.
Volume (Year): 53 (2010)
Issue (Month): 7 ()
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