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SECTION II:  POTENTIAL STRATEGIES
Group A.  STRATEGIES TO HELP MAINTAIN FARMING

Strategy A4:  Reduce conflict between agriculture and nearby habitat lands
Strategy A4.1:  Establish "Good neighbor" policies

DESCRIPTION

Many Delta farmers are concerned that habitat lands could harm nearby agriculture in various ways.  Habitat areas could export weeds, diseases and pests.  Prolonged flooding of constructed wetlands could cause water seepage onto nearby farmland and consequently damage crops.  Neighbors of a restoration project may also have concerns about wildlife and human trespass.  Farmers are also concerned that protected species could migrate from restored habitat areas onto farmland and result in liability under species protection laws. In addition, farmers want assurance that owners of project lands purchased and held pending development and approval of projects will be good stewards and continue to maintain the agricultural nature of the lands pending commencement of the project. 

Farmers would like additional assurance that entities that establish and manage habitat projects nearby will consult with their neighbors and find ways to avoid such impacts and resolve problems when they arise.  This could include creation of buffer zones between habitat preserves and farmland, which would help to reduce or eliminate exposure to pests and diseases on neighboring lands, prevent overspray of chemicals onto habitat lands, and assist with a successful transition between different land uses.  Another option is to provide third-party liability insurance or a fund to compensate landowners for any substantiated property damage.

A third option is to develop and obtain approval of land management agreements and permits that provide landowners protections from liability under state and federal endangered species laws for their otherwise lawful operations, should expanded populations of threatened and endangered species enter their property due to nearby habitat restoration.  See Strategy A4.2 for a more detailed discussion of this option.

RELATED PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

Buffer zones are in use in the North Natomas HCP in Sacramento and Sutter Counties to separate the habitat preserve from urban and potentially urban areas.  In that instance, the main aim of the buffer zone is to protect native wildlife from urban threats, such as cats and dogs.

The land use and management plan adopted by the Delta Protection Commission includes a policy that calls for habitat projects to include appropriate buffer areas to prevent conflicts with neighboring agricultural parcels.  It further states: "Buffers shall adequately protect integrity of land for…agricultural uses and shall not include uses that conflict with agricultural operations on adjacent…lands."

The Mitigation and Monitoring Reporting Program for the Delta Stewardship Council's Delta Plan, which summarizes the mitigation measures in the final program environmental impact report, contains three actions under Mitigation Measure 7-1 to reduce the impact of habitat projects on agriculture.  These actions include reconnecting utilities or infrastructure that serve agricultural uses if these are disturbed by project construction, managing project operations to minimize the introduction of invasive species or weeds that may affect agricultural production on adjacent agricultural land, and establishing buffer areas between projects and adjacent agricultural land that are sufficient to protect and maintain land capability and agricultural operation flexibility.

With regard to buffer areas, Delta Plan Mitigation Measure 7-1 states, in part, "Design buffers to protect the feasibility of ongoing agricultural operations and reduce the effects of construction- or operation-related activities (including the potential to introduce special-status species in the agricultural areas) on adjacent or nearby properties. The buffer shall also serve to protect ecological restoration areas from noise, dust, and the application of agricultural chemicals. The width of the buffer shall be determined on a project-by-project basis to account for variations in prevailing winds, crop types, agricultural practices, ecological restoration, or infrastructure. Buffers can function as drainage swales, trails, roads, linear parkways, or other uses compatible with ongoing agricultural operations."

ISSUES

Buffer zones may be expensive to acquire, both in dollars and land area.  Because they typically do not contribute to the acreage requirements for species protected in habitat preserves, their justification lies in their ability to reduce or prevent impacts to neighbors. 

Multi-purpose buffers are worth considering both because they may provide co-benefits for the landowner and others, and because some compatible uses may reduce the costs of acquiring or maintaining buffer zones.  For example, trespass concerns might be reduced by planting buffers or borders along the edges of the planting that will discourage human trespass, such as rose, blackberry, and poison oak hedgerows that also have wildlife benefits, or another barrier might involve planting a dense hedgerow of trees to intercept pesticide drift from neighboring properties. Such hedgerows can also function as valuable habitat.  Other examples of multi-purpose buffers could include a drainage ditch or irrigation canal, interior or exterior levee, fire road, wind break, pipeline or power line, railroad right of way or rural airstrip, flood bypass, groundwater recharge area, windmills to generate electricity for on-farm use and/or the grid, solar panels to generate electricity for on-farm use and/or the grid, CIMIS station and cell phone tower.

 If you would like to provide feedback on this strategy, please click the following link: Agricultural Stewardship Strategy Feedback Form

ALS Workgroup: ALS Framework and Strategies: Section II:  Strategy B4.1 Good Neighbor: 061014