Sonoma County voters approved the creation of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, and its funding through a quarter-cent sales tax, in 1990. Since then, the agency has opened nearly 12,000 acres of protected land for public recreation, helping to create 32 new parks, preserves, and public spaces, including Sonoma’s Montini Open Space Preserve.
So, what’s next?
Dedicated to protecting working and natural lands forever, the agency began work last year on the Vital Lands Initiative – a long-term strategic plan that will its work for the next 15 years.
The plan began to take shape a year ago and is now in draft form. Before taking a final version to the Board of Supervisors, the agency will host a series of nine county-wide meetings to gather public input, including March 19 at the Sonoma Veterans Building, from 6 to 8 p.m.
“We face exceptional challenges – population growth; escalating land values; drought; increased pressure on farmland, open space, and wildlife habitat; and the growing impacts of climate change,” said Bill Keene, Ag + Open Space general manager. “The Vital Lands Initiative will provide the roadmap necessary to preserve a healthy, beautiful, and resilient Sonoma County now and for generations to come.”
The Initiative utilized the best available science, data and technical information to identify strategies for prioritizing conservation of our agricultural and natural lands, Keene said. The draft document reflects the input of hundreds of community members and groups through public meetings, workshops, and discussions with local leaders, partners, and technical experts.
“Now we’re ready to share what we heard,” Keen said. “We look forward to hearing from the community about whether the Vital Lands Initiative reflects their vision for land conservation in Sonoma County.”
“While we are proud of our accomplishments to date, our most important successes are yet to come,” added Keene. “The Vital Lands Initiative will provide the roadmap necessary to preserve a healthy, beautiful, and resilient Sonoma County now and for generations to come.”