Sustainable Agriculture & Land Conservation
What is the Sustainable Agriculture Land Conservation Program?
In 2015, Mono County was awarded a grant through the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program to develop a sustainable agricultural strategy. Since that grant award, several major issues have shifted the landscape and context of sustainable agriculture in Mono County, including a 2015 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to withdraw a proposed listing of the Bi-State sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, a major cross-jurisdictional effort to collaborate on compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, and the legalization of commercial cannabis activities. The work conducted under the (SALC) grant program, and the content of the sustainable agricultural lands strategy, has been fluid in order to incorporate these emerging issues into a holistic toolbox.
How does Agriculture and Bi-State Sage-Grouse Interact?
In late 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed to list the Bi-State Sage-Grouse (BSSG) distinct population segment as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and released proposed critical habitat designations. The critical habitat would have encompassed over 80% of the small privately-owned land base in Mono County, and had the potential to significantly impact agricultural operations.
Traditionally, there has been a conflicting view between agriculture and wildlife, though there are actions available that create a symbiotic relationship. A major success with the Bi-State Sage-Grouse was the development of an alternative to listing by supporting needed conservation direction. This created the Bi-State Action Plan, a collaborative effort between local city, county, and federal entities.
Though grazing was considered a low priority within the Bi-State Action plan, with data compiled , there is a better understanding of habitat range and how to manage grazing in correspondence with wildlife protection. This has built a consensus that properly managed land is mutually beneficial, especially compared to land fragmentation where habitat is destroyed.
Efforts made to increase viable habitat within grazing allotments includes modification of 35 allotments, covering more than one-million acres, to include terms and conditions that benefit sage grouse habitat by adjusting seasons of use, permit numbers, and limiting use levels. Additionally, on private lands, there have been efforts to implement perch deterrents and install either fence markings or appropriate let-down fences.
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