Posted: Thursday, April 05, 2012 1:00 PM
Ag conservation effort largest known in the state
By CECILIA PARSONS
For the Capital Press
More than 9,200 acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland will be protected from development with the recording of a permanent agricultural conservation easement.
Administering the easement will be the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit land trust in Lincoln, Calif., and accredited by the Land Trust Alliance.
Of the 9,200 acres placed into the conservation easement, about 7,000 are on the west side of the valley. The remaining 2,200 acres are river bottom land near Sanger and Reedley, along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Landowners have traditionally agreed to easements to make sure the lands remain in production. This removes development pressure and prohibits practices that could interfere with farming. The easement remains in effect even when the land changes ownership.
This easement is significant because it is for irrigated cropland as opposed to grazing land, involved parties say.
Patrick Shea, executive director of Wildlife Heritage Foundation, said the organization was fortunate to be selected to be part of the historic easement that is the largest known agricultural conservation effort in the state.
Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau said the easement would ensure that world-class ag lands remain protected from development. The Gerawan family, he added, is known for innovative agricultural practices.
Gerawan Farming is the nation's largest grower of peaches, plums and nectarines and among the leaders in table grape production. Ray Gerawan, who heads the 75-year-old farming company, said he and sons Dan and Mike will remain committed to quality fruit production, and the conservation easement promises that the traditions started by his family will continue for generations.
Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League, said that the agreement protecting farm ground on both sides of the valley demonstrates a clear appreciation for agriculture.
The Wildlife Heritage Foundation, founded in 2000, provides land conservation services to public- and private-sector clients. This year the foundation holds easements on 75 properties.
protecting nearly 29,000 acres. The purpose is to protect, enhance and restore wildlife habitat and working landscapes for the benefit of future generations.