What We Do

Land use and water policy plans for the future

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The conservation work of land trusts most often brings to mind preservation of grand vistas and open spaces. 

Rarely does the general public witness the land use policy work that SRT engages in behind-the-scenes with government agencies and nonprofit partners. SRT staff attends countless public meetings and planning sessions in order to secure a livable future for California, including advocacy on interests from greenhouse gas reductions, to transit planning and air and water issues.

Why do we do this? In short, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Our region’s rural areas—which include some of the most productive farmland on the planet, habitat corridors essential to maintaining California’s biodiversity, and open space that contributes to quality of life—face enormous pressure from urban development. SRT works with willing landowners to protect many of these areas directly, but some policy decisions can affect farmland, habitat and open space throughout the region. 

If we can champion patterns of growth that allow for conservation while helping existing communities thrive, we believe that rural and urban areas alike can benefit. For this reason, we coordinate with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders to be sure that when key policy decisions are made, there’s a moderate, sensible voice for conservation at the table. Here are some of the things we’re working on:

Farmland mitigation policy: Thanks to our input and other stakeholders’, the cities of Visalia, Tulare, and Fresno have all recently adopted farmland mitigation policies as part of their General Plans. These policies, which call on projects that consume highly productive farmland to contribute to the conservation of similarly situated farmland elsewhere, provide resources for conservation and encourage developers to invest in existing communities. 

Sustainable Communities Strategies are a new part of the Regional Transportation Plans prepared for Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties. Because transportation investments can have a significant effect on farmland, habitat and open space, SRT was at the table for the development of the San Joaquin Valley’s first SCSs in 2014. As part of a broad coalition of stakeholders who supported conservation, better air quality and revitalization of our region’s towns and cities, we helped lay the foundation for a sensible, conservation-oriented approach to transportation planning. 

Drought adaptation: SRT is actively working with farmers, ranchers and others to develop sensible solutions for our region’s water crisis. Through the California Economic Summit’s Working Landscapes Group, we’re also bringing our region’s concerns to the attention of state-level government and business leaders.

On any given day, you might see us out on the preserves mapping and cutting trails, witness our staff scientists restoring important habitat, or find our community outreach teams leading visitors on hikes. Or you might run into us in the halls of government buildings or featured on leading edge panels wherever policy thinkers gather. It’s all an essential part of conserving California’s heartland for the enjoyment and prosperity of future generations.

This video features SRT President & CEO Soapy Mulholland at a February 2019 water policy symposium held at Fresno State University and organized by the Public Policy Institute of California:

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