Feb 16, 2018
By Judy Bellah
In 1990, through the foresight of community leaders and citizens, Sonoma County voters approved the creation of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District(Ag + Open Space) and a quarter-cent sales tax that provides funding for planning, acquisition, and stewardship of the region’s working, natural, and scenic open space lands. Over two and a half decades later, Ag + Open Space is one of the leading land conservation programs in the nation with a mission to preserve the best of Sonoma County’s agricultural and natural resources.
General Manager Bill Keene has been with Ag + Open Space for ten years. “While we are proud of our accomplishments to date, our most important successes are yet to come,” says Keene. “As we look ahead to the future, we face exceptional challenges—population growth, escalating land values, drought, increased pressure on farmland, open space, and wildlife habitat, and the growing impacts of climate change.”
With these challenges in mind, Ag + Open Space began work in early 2017 on the Vital Lands Initiative, a comprehensive set of goals and strategies that will guide the organization’s work for the next 15 years. The initiative uses the best available science, data, technical information, and local expertise to prioritize conservation of our agricultural and natural lands, scenic views and greenbelt areas, and to protect land for recreation and urban open space.
The Vital Lands Initiative also relies upon community involvement gathered through public meetings—five of which were held in March 2017—and workshops, stakeholder interviews, polling, community events, and online outreach. A second round of meetings scheduled in October was cancelled while the organization helped facilitate the county’s post-fire watershed recovery and resiliency efforts. With the recovery process underway, Ag + Open Space is focused again on the Vital Lands Initiative and invites the community to share its thoughts on the draft plan at the following public meetings:
Tuesday, March 20 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm | Bodega Bay Grange, 1370 Bodega Ave, Bodega Bay
Wednesday, March 21 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm | Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building,1094 Petaluma Blvd S, Petaluma
Monday, March 26 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm | Sea Ranch Hall INFO: www.tsra.org
Wednesday, March 28 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm | Villa Chanticleer, 900 Chanticleer Way, Healdsburg
Thursday, March 29 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm | Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa
Saturday, March 31 | 10:00am–12:00pm | Cloverdale Veterans Memorial Building, 205 W 1st St, Cloverdale
Sonoma County citizens can take pride in their vision for conservation and their investments in over 114,000 acres of working lands and natural areas. Ag + Open Space has protected thousands of acres of land that help safeguard healthy watersheds and groundwater basins and provide clean drinking water and critical habitats for sensitive, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species. Further, by working with farmers and ranchers to protect their land from the threat of subdivision and development, Ag + Open Space contributes to a thriving $650 million agricultural economy that features artisanal cheeses and dairy products, free-range meat and poultry, organic produce, world-class wine, and more.
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