NR 2004-12
May 14, 2004

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


SACRAMENTO -- The amount of agricultural land in Butte County continued to decrease while urban and wildlife refuge land increased, according to a new map released by the California Department of Conservation.

Nearly 5,000 acres were removed from agricultural categories and placed in urban and “other” land classes between 2000 and 2002. More than half the change was associated with better documentation of wildlife areas.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection, documents land-use conversion on 45.8 million acres of California’s private and public land every two years. The maps and statistics are designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions. The 2000-2002 mapping – the clearest look yet at state land use thanks to improved digital mapping processes -- is ongoing throughout the state.

“This information helps counties and cities see the patterns and make informed choices about how they want to direct growth in the future,” Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said. “The population of California will continue to grow. It’s vital that we ensure there’s enough room for people and agriculture.”

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program classifies land as either irrigated or non-irrigated farmland, grazing land, urban land, other land or water. The “other” category includes low-density "ranchettes," wetlands, and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

In Butte County, according to the most recent FMMP report, urban land increased by 2,156 acres, although it should be noted that half of this increase was due to the use of more detailed digital imagery. A total of 4,992 acres -- including

2,409 acres of irrigated farmland -- were taken out of agricultural usage during the 2000-02 period. Additions to wildlife refuges in the western and southern parts of the county were the primary cause of these conversions.

Examples of recent urbanization in Butte County included the 90-acre Tuscan Ridge Golf Club east of Chico, housing developments of about 75 acres each south of Chico off Skyway Road and in South Oroville, and the 45-acre Autumn Park housing development north of Chico.

Since the 1990 FMMP survey, Butte County has gained more than 6,200 urbanized acres; just over 21,000 agricultural acres have been reclassified to urban or “other” land.

The agricultural land in Butte County will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that the county’s population will increase from 205,400 in 2000 to 308,900 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Butte County’s agricultural production was $205.5 million in 2002.

The maps have been sent to county planning officials and organizations such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, city planners, irrigation districts and county resource conservation districts. Printed copies, enlargements, or digital versions of the maps are available to the public. Call (916) 324-0859 or email for more information.

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1998-2000, was released last June. More than 91,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state (a 30-percent increase from the 1996-98 mapping cycle), much of that from irrigated farmland.

Through the Department of Conservation, the state offers programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use.