Land Use

Land Use Committee Report

Submitted By Peter Bauer, Land Use Committee Chair

Post Fire Management on the Mendocino National Forest

In October of 2021, the Mendocino National Forest released a draft assessment for their prescribed fire and fuels management strategy to reduce fuel loads and mitigate future impacts of wildfire across forest lands within the  Mendocino National Forest, but outside of designated wilderness areas.  After three pages of acronym definitions, they introduce the project and state the objectives.  The objective is to prevent these catastrophic wildfires from occurring and restore the forest to a fire resilient state. 

Three alternatives were listed in their plan. Alternative one is no action.  This would basically result in nothing changing from the current management strategy.  Alternative two is to implement a prescribed fire program.  In addition to this, they call for hand thinning and limbing in areas that aren’t conducive to a control burn.  They also call for establishing/ maintaining fire control lines.  Alternative three is basically the same as alternative two with the exception that alternative three includes use of mechanical thinning procedures. Comments on the draft were due at the end of November.

I believe at this point, alternative two is the choice of the land managers.  However, in my comment letter that was submitted for the draft assessment, I supported alternative three over alternative two since I don’t know how the USFS thinks they are going to rehabilitate the 923,000 acres of the Mendocino National Forest by hand.  Our landscape desperately needs alternative three.  Don’t forget also, that there are many private inholdings within the boundary of that 923,000 acres that are part of the mosaic of landscape affected by the fires and any subsequent  control burning. 

To see the rest of the article, please visit the Members Only Page.

Insurance Non-Renewal or Cancellation

Mendocino County farmers, ranchers, timber property owners, residents and business owners have seen their property insurance or commercial insurance policies non-renewed or canceled over the past several years due in part to the reevaluation of coverage connected to wild fire risk scores.

In order to retain insurance coverage, the process has become more complicated with higher costs. Instead of a single policy, agents are now working to stack policies in order to retain adequate coverage for the property, equipment, liability, etc. If traditional market placement isn’t successful, the CA FAIR Plan is the last resort option that many have turned to.

In relation to the CA FAIR Plan, CA Farm Bureau was successful in working to have legislation passed, SB 11, that added the ability to have farm or ranch property covered under the FAIR plan. The ability to access the FAIR plan for agricultural policies is expected in early 2022.

Each policy is a bit different and there are many questions that those with non-renewed or canceled policies have been trying to find answers to. For this reason, MCFB hosted a workshop in September 2021 to provide some information to consider if policies had been non-renewed or cancelled.

For some additional information on considerations related to the standard insurance markets, please see the presentation HERE

For some additional information on SB 11 and the FAIR Plan, please see the presentation HERE

Williamson Act

The California Land Conservation Act, more popularly known as the Williamson Act, was created when the Assembly Agriculture Committee undertook a study in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and others that eventually led to the passage of legislation in 1965.

Under the Williamson Act, an owner of agricultural land may enter into a contract with the county if the landowner agrees to restrict use of the land to the production of commercial crops for a term of not less than 10 years. The term of the contract is automatically extended each year unless notice of cancellation or nonrenewal is given. Certain compatible uses are also allowed on the property. In return, the landowner is taxed on the capitalization of the income from the land, and not on the Proposition 13 value. Additional information on the California Land Conservation Act is available from the California Department of Conservation at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/lca.

Mendocino County Williamson Act Information

Mendocino County Agricultural Preserve Application

Mendocino County Agricultural Preserve Contract

Mendocino County Williamson Act Ordinance

Mendocino County Sustainable Ag Lands Committee Fact Sheet

The Great Redwood Rail Trail Proposal

The Great Redwood Trail proposal provides public access for a number of recreational purposes (hiking, biking and equestrian uses) which could create impacts to the numerous private properties that the rail line currently crosses in the 300 miles of track plus spur lines (there are 1300 parcels that the RR line crosses/borders in Mendocino County alone). There are numerous private properties, a number of these are involved in farming or ranching, that may be impacted by the placement and/or use of the trail.  This may also require the construction of trail crossings, further imperiling adjacent land holders. Since this trail is 300 miles long, issues related to garbage, camping/overnight stays, human waste or possible fire risk should also be considered. The legislation is unclear as to how disputes related to these types of interactions may be dealt with.  Moreover, due to deteriorating conditions along the defunct rail line and the associated deferred maintenance issues, the newly established Great Redwood Trail Agency may consider alternative routes beyond the scope of the existing right-of-way which may result in the dissection of private property.

If the existing railroad adjoins or crosses your property in Mendocino County, you should pay attention to this rail trail proposal as it moves forward. Farm Bureau is not against public recreational opportunities, however the potential impacts to farming and ranching operations as well as private properties along the proposed trail route cannot be ignored.