SLT in the News

Solano Land Trust pleased about report

Author: By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald
Date: Feb 21, 2011

A Solano County open space group is praising a recent White House report that proposes more federal funding for locally driven conservation efforts.

But Washington's budget battles could lead to a less favorable result.

The "America's Great Outdoors Report," released last week, proposes to extend tax breaks for landowners who agree to donate the development rights of their farms and ranches to conservation efforts.

It also proposes to provide more federal funding for efforts to promote urban parks, community green spaces and large-scale conservation efforts.

The voices of land trusts—including the Solano Land Trust—were reflected in the report.

"The timing is exceptional," Solano Land Trust Executive Director Nicole Byrd said. "I'm thrilled that the president took our ideas into consideration. He is paying attention to the work of land trusts."

The nation's patchwork of land trusts works to achieve voluntary conservation of private land. Locally, the Solano Land Trust has preserved more than 20,000 acres of farms and natural areas since its inception in 1986.

But its successes have been largely dependent on public and private funding.

The report describes a future in which Americans participate through local partnerships to conserve open space as well as farms and ranches.

"This vision ties directly into our goals as the Solano Land Trust," Byrd said.

Obama's 2012 budget request asks for a down payment on these efforts.

It would provide $200 million for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund—some of which would fund grants for urban parks and public-private conservation projects.

Full funding is no guarantee, though, with Republicans calling for tremendous cuts to both funds this year. But land trust advocates see Obama's support as a positive sign for next year.

"This initiative (would) significantly reorient federal conservation efforts to emphasize working lands and embrace local governments and land trusts as effective partners in conserving the places that give meaning to our lives," said Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, which represents 1,700 community-based land trusts nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Solano Land Trust is expecting $1.27 million this year from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to help fund the 600-acre St. Anthony's conservation easement near Putah Creek.

The purchase is expected to close this spring.

In 2009, the same federal program contributed $1.33 million toward the purchase of the 489-acre Miles/Kidwell easement between Dixon and Davis.

Nationwide, land trusts have conserved more than 37 million acres, including more than 12 million acres protected by voluntary conservation agreements with private landowners.

Congress is expected to beginning debating the next year's budget in the spring.

Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6831.