The Agricultural and Forest Industries
Strengthening the region’s agricultural and forest industries can slow the loss of forests and farmland. Areas of concern include the affordability of working forests and farms and the ease of transfer of these lands from their current owners to the next generation of farmers and foresters.
Reducing the rate of land conversion poses a political challenge. Political pressure to grow a community can impact whether and where this growth (and related land conversion) is concentrated. And given the significant effort it takes to address the impacts of existing land conversion, efforts to prevent pollution by limiting future land conversion are often neglected. Local governments need information on the benefits of smart growth and land conservation. Local governments also need information on the potential changes to codes and plans that concentrated growth can require. Some local governments may need help balancing economic goals with environmental goals. Others may need help ensuring open spaces are not rezoned and lost to future development.
Evaluating the policy options, incentives and planning tools that could help lower the rate of land conversion across the watershed will require the engagement and surveying of stakeholders (e.g., local governments and interest groups). Completing this evaluation will pose a technical and administrative challenge and require sufficient funding. These challenges will be mitigated to some extent by the long timeframe (by 2017) in which to complete it.
Factors Influencing Progress
Several factors could impact our ability to evaluate policy options, incentives and planning tools that could help local governments improve their capacity to reduce the rate of land conversion. These factors have directly informed the management actions our partners will take to achieve the Land Use Options Evaluation outcome.