NR 2005-26
December 7, 2005

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

Project may be first step toward a greenbelt between Davis and Dixon

SACRAMENTO – A partnership of governments, the Department of Conservation (DOC), and UC Davis has finalized plans to preserve 300 acres of prime farmland along the I-80 corridor. DOC provided the bulk of the funding to create an agricultural conservation easement that will permanently shield McConeghy Ranch from future development. The Solano Land Trust and the cities of Dixon and Davis will hold the easement, and the land trust will monitor the easement.

“This project is an excellent example of inter-governmental cooperation protecting California farmland and wildlife. As a rancher, I understand the high value of preserving our state’s agricultural lands,” said Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman. “This also could be the first step toward building an agricultural buffer between Davis and Dixon.”

Through the California Farmland Conservancy Program, the DOC provided a grant of $2,237,500 to ensure the project’s completion. The Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, contributed $720,000. At the local level, the city of Davis gave $507,500, and the city of Dixon contributed $150,000. UC Davis provided $77,500 for the project.

The McConeghy Ranch spans both sides of I-80 at the Kidwell Road exit between Davis and Dixon. There is currently no development at the freeway exit. The property is located three-quarters of a mile outside of Dixon’s Sphere of Influence and 2¼ miles from Davis’. The land is farmed in hay, sunflowers, and tomatoes. The ranch also provides a scenic viewshed along I-80 and the Amtrak commuter route.

“This project is very encouraging for the future of agriculture," said state Senator Michael J. Machado (D-Linden). "Collaboration between state agencies, local governments, and UC Davis was the key to crafting this acquisition, and should lead to other innovative ways of protecting land for agriculture and wildlife habitat throughout the state.”

“This is an important project that hopefully sends an even greater message -- about preserving open space and farmland, about partnerships between the state, UC Davis, the cities and county, and ultimately, with the voters who passed the bonds that fund a large part of these acquisitions. This project is a model of success,” said Assemblymember Lois Wolk (D-Davis).

UC Davis and the city of Davis approached the California Farmland Conservancy Program about pursuing an agricultural easement on the property in June 2003. The university had acquired an option to purchase the land from the McConeghy family two years prior. With the conservation easement in place, the property will be resold to a private farmer for continued agricultural production.

The California Farmland Conservancy Program, administered by DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection, is designed to ensure that the state's most valuable farmland will not be developed. Local governments and non-profit organizations can apply for CFCP grants to purchase development rights from willing landowners, thus creating permanent conservation easements.

Even though California is recognized as a leader in agricultural production, farmland is being converted rapidly for development and other uses. In the years 2000-2002, nearly 54,000 acres of irrigated farmland were taken out of production.

“As the population grows, farmland preservation becomes ever more critical,” Department of Conservation Director Bridgett Luther said. “The California Farmland Conservancy Program offers a way to help balance the needs of the traditional agricultural economy with those of a growing population.”

CFCP funds are still available for new grant proposals. Landowners and trusts are encouraged to contact DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection for grant application information. The division's Web address is DOC also offers other land resource protection programs through the Williamson Act and Farmland Security Zones that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use for periods of 10 and 20 years.



Jean McConeghy, landowner: “That land is very meaningful to me and my family. I always thought I’d go back and live on it someday. I never thought about selling it. I felt very strongly that it ought to always remain in agriculture. I think what we’ve done would make my parents very happy. It certainly softens the blow of parting with the property.”

Marilyn Farley, Solano Land Trust Executive Director: “There’s little doubt that this property was headed for development were the partners not so committed to farmland preservation. We applaud the partners for stepping forward to protect this key parcel and are glad we could play a role.”

Ed Burton, California State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: “Not often do so many local, state and federal groups concur on and contribute to an approach to protecting environmental and economic interests. This easement, however, is just such a meeting of minds and pocket books.”

Davis Mayor Ruth Asmundson: “The location of the project provides strong strategic value to the acquisition. An easement at this location will serve as the start to a greenbelt between Davis and Dixon, something of strong importance to both cities.”

Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville: “We’re hopeful that the completion of this project will encourage other landowners in the immediate vicinity to create easements.”

Larry Vanderhoeff, UC Davis Chancellor: “Combining close-in compact development to serve students, faculty and staff with strategic agricultural land preservation makes a lot of sense. We are pleased that we were able to facilitate this project.”

Charles Tyson, California Farmland Conservancy Program Manager: “Farmland is a vital and irreplaceable natural resource. We hope this project encourages more efforts to protect the county’s farmland.”