California’s booming population over the past decade has meant a lot of new development in the form of housing and roadways; taking large swaths of agricultural range and farm land with it.
Environmentalists say this growth has delivered
the state to a crossroads where the extinction or survival for many
types of species, wildlife and natural habitat will be decided. Enter
modern-day growth, fueled by disappearing lands, a state program
from the 90’s-conservation banking. Like a financial institution
protect dollars and cents, a conservation bank works to protect
the bucolic landscapes and the creatures living upon it and dually
rewards the land owner by staving off development, while also providing
an additional revenue stream. The best friends to the Federal regulators
who oversee these banks are the very agricultural land owners who
are more commonly tagged as being at the wrong intersection of those
Chris Burrous meets traditional cattle rancher
turned conservationist, Marden Wilber. Marden discovered conservation
banking when a chunk of his grazing operation wasn’t suitable for
conversion to vineyards. Marden hoped the vineyards would produce
a badly needed additional revenue stream from the sale of grapes. When that plan didn't work, a colleague suggested converting that
chunk of land instead to a conservation bank as means of not only
producing additional income, but at the same time allowing Marden's
land to remain just as it was.
Marden contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
to find out more, and the rest, Marden says, is history. We’ll
meet Ken Sanchez, a biologist with U.S.F.W.S. and learn how Marden's
bank works, what endangered species it supports and how agriculture
plays a vital role in these banks.
In addition to private land holders, conservation
banks are also being established by commercial conservation organizations. Wildlands
Incorporated is the largest of these types of conservationists -
conservationists who are also “cowboys”.
We’ll also visit the Jenny Farms Conservation
Bank in Yolo County. This bank is a Swainson's Hawk preserve and
a perfect example of the beneficial coexistence between agricultural
multi-use land management and preservation of our natural resources.