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NR 2001-60
October 4, 2001

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

PACE OF URBANIZATION SLOWS SLIGHTLY IN FRESNO COUNTY

However, More Farmland Taken Out of Production, New DOC Map Shows

SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization slowed slightly in Fresno County, with 3,699 acres of land converted to urban uses from 1998-2000, according to maps released today by the California Department of Conservation. The maps are designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions.

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.

In Fresno County, 3,098 acres of agricultural land -- including 1,358 acres of prime farmland -- were reclassified as urban land by the FMMP. An additional 601 acres of land classified as "other" -- a category that includes wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing -- was reclassified to urban.

The mountainous areas of eastern Fresno County, largely in public ownership, are not mapped. Nor are farm and grazing land in western Fresno County, including the Coast Range foothills and most of the Westlands Water District.

Since the FMMP began in 1984, 23,296 acres have been urbanized in Fresno County, the nation's leading agricultural county. During the 1996-98 mapping cycle, the total was 3,991 acres, including 2,795 acres of agricultural land.

Looking ahead, 6,629 acres -- including 1,885 acres of prime farmland -- are committed to non-agricultural use. Often, this is land earmarked for development. In some cases infrastructure development, such as sewer installation, may be underway.

Fresno County is among the first to be mapped in the 1998-2000 cycle. Of the 1,123,197 acres mapped in the county, 642,167 (57 percent) were cultivated, 319,691 (24.5 percent) were being used for grazing and 97,002 (8.6 percent) were urbanized.

The map has been sent to Fresno County planning officials, and interested parties such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, planning consultants and area resource conservation districts have received copies.

"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 Fresno County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Fresno County's 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 874,100 to 1.5 million by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Fresno County's agricultural production was more than $3.4 billion in 2000.

Following are examples of agricultural land being urbanized in Fresno County:

  • Several new housing developments in the Fresno area -- including Sommerville, Cambridge, Cambridge at Figarden, Granville Estates, Shepard Ranch and South Hampton -- totaling approximately 1,100 acres.

  • New homes and schools in Clovis, including the Fairview Estates, Buchanan and Ranch housing developments.

  • Smaller developments in Kerman (the Kerman Photovoltaic Plant), San Joaquin (the San Joaquin Industrial Center), Sanger (the Palisades housing community and Sanger High School), Selma (La Dante Rose and Corvina II housing developments) and Parlier (a junior high school and a Maxco Supply Inc. plant).

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1996-98, was released last fall. About 70,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state; more than 43,000 acres of the new urban land, an area about the size of the city of Modesto, were developed on agricultural land.

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