The Conservation Spectrum, a Growing Southern California Population and RLC's Role

Last month we introduced the California Council of Land Trusts (CCLT) Conservation Horizons initiative as a guide to help ensure land trusts, such as RLC, continue to be sustainable, long-lived, and healthy as California’s population and community needs grow. 

The Horizons Committee has done some great research about the facts and trends of California’s population that might surprise you.  By 2050, California’s population will grow by 35%!  That means the population will increase by 13 million people…that’s essentially the current population in metropolitan L.A.  In fact, it is predicted that over 50% of the state’s population will reside in urban Southern California! For RLC to stay sustainable we must broaden our work so we can meaningfully reach and connect the growing communities we serve with the land we protect.

The Conservation Horizons Report suggests one way land trusts can better serve our diverse communities is by conserving and protecting open space across The Conservation Spectrum.  The concept of The Conservation Spectrum supports the notion that for conservation to successfully serve all Californians, we need a variety of protected lands, from parks, gardens and green space in highly urbanized areas to working agricultural lands and to wilderness in our most remote areas.  The Conservation Horizons report suggests the following recommendation that can help land trusts to collectively conserve lands across The Conservation Spectrum: Deepen-Don’t Change-Your Mission!

Taking this recommendation to heart and realizing the need in our community, RLC has applied for a grant to develop an Agricultural Mitigation Program for western Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The conservation of important farmland is key in ensuring agricultural lands are kept in our region so people have access to healthy, locally grown food. Furthermore, many bird species, such as the burrowing owl, rely on agricultural lands for food and shelter.  Before we can start conserving these vital lands in our area, we need to know where soils, water, and land use policies and practices exist that might promote continued agricultural uses into the future. The development of a working agricultural mitigation program will help to develop funding sources that can be used in conserving farmlands in our area.  This is what RLC hopes to create. 

Our friends at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust is doing their part in The Conservation Spectrum by working to conserve green space in the highly urbanized Los Angeles area by converting abandoned lots into parks and community gardens for park poor communities.  The Mojave Desert Land Trust, among other goals, seeks to acquire privately owned inholdings in Joshua Tree National Park to protect adjacent national park lands from threats brought by future development of these inholdings. We applaud the unique focus areas of these land trusts and look forward to seeing how our concerted efforts build a framework for open space protection in the greater southern California area. No piece of The Conservation Spectrum is more important than another, but together these pieces build a California landscape that provides heathy, interconnected communities for both people and wildlife.  As the wise John Muir stated, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Over the next few months we will be sharing more information from the Conservation Horizons Report and information gathered by CCLT.  Join us as we embark on our journey to apply the recommendations provided in the Report.

July 2015