NR 2004-13
May 14, 2004

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


SACRAMENTO -- The amount of agricultural land and open space in Marin County continued to decrease while urbanized land increased, according to a new map released by the California Department of Conservation.

Nearly 500 acres were removed from agricultural categories while 898 acres were added to the urban total between 2000 and 2002.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, 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 to ensure there’s enough room both for people and agriculture.”

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program classifies land as either farmland (prime being the best of four types of farmland), grazing land, urban land, other land or water. The “other” category includes low-density "ranchettes," wetlands, and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

The largest additions to urban land in the current report were in the Novato area, including more than 100 acres at the Stonetree Golf Club and the adjacent Renaissance community.

Since the 1990 FMMP survey, Marin County has gained 2,522 urbanized acres while 3,927 acres of farmland and grazing land have gone out of agricultural use.

The agricultural land in Marin 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 250,100 in 2000 to 273,800 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Marin County’s agricultural production was $44.5 million in 2002.

To help local governments make the best choices regarding agricultural land, FMMP upgraded the maps in 2002 by incorporating new digital soil data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Accurate soil information is the basis for determining the quality of land for farming.

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 – and 27 percent of that total came from irrigated farmland.

Through the Department of Conservation, the state offers programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use. The California Farmland Conservancy Program makes grants available to local governments, land trusts or resource conservation districts to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. These easements prohibit future development. Farmland Security Zone and Williamson Act contracts provide potential tax benefits to landowners who commit to keeping their land in agricultural use for periods of 20 or 10 years, respectively.