Legislative Programs and Land Use Planning

Local Area Working Group:

The formation of the LAWG through agency and grassroots efforts has capitulated the ability to create a symbiotic ranching and critical species interaction. The group organization is open to all members of the public, and includes ranchers, federal agencies, state agencies, and government. These groups offered recommendations towards conservation efforts and most disturbing elements towards reestablishment of populations.

Conservation Easements:

Land Tenure and Access also needs diversification beyond simple fee ownership of land. There is not enough private land to support the agriculture industry of Mono County. Conservation Easements are such a tool where an agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit land trust, conservation group, or government agency protects the working land by purchasing development rights, thereby reducing the property value. 

Conservation Easement funding is based on certain criteria which collected as a matrix provides a rubric for highest priority lands. Provided by Eastern Sierra Land Trust, the Agricultural Priority Criteria follows:

1. Agricultural viability - parcel size; access to agricultural markets; nearby or onsite processing facilities; soil/grassland quality; sustainable water supply; management capability; continued investment in operation

2. Strategic location - adjacent to or close to other protected public and private lands

3. Multiple resource values – wildlife habitat; scenic; cultural; historic values

4. Cost-effectiveness - landowner ability to contribute to stewardship fund; donate a portion of the easement value

5. Development pressure – evidence of adjacent or nearby development of agricultural lands to residential, commercial, or industrial development; presence of development credits on individual parcels and neighboring parcels

6. Relationship to local or regional planning - compatibility with Land Use Plan; development credits scenario; Important Bird Area; Scenic Byway: Forest Plan; etc.

7. Feasibility - patient and cooperative landowner; funding availability

Groundwater Sustainability Plan: 

Mono County has been participating in conversations about forming a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) since 2014. The County signed a Joint Powers Agreement with 11 other eligible entities to form the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority (OVGA) in the fall of 2017, which is intended to function as a single GSA for the entire Owens Groundwater basin (see Appendix B). In November 2017, the County appropriated up to $91,000 from contingencies in the General Fund for Fiscal Year 17-18 to fund the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) on behalf of the County, Tri-Valley Groundwater Management District (TVGMD), and Wheeler Crest Community Services District (CSD). A more sustainable source of funding has not yet become available for this effort.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction: 

Recognizing the elements of Carbon Sequestration in National Forest through institutional policy would provide drastic mitigation measures with the baseline of carbon emissions; further, the notion of forest and rangelands providing offsets for the entire state would help understand the additional environmental services provided to urban centers such as water quality, decreased erosion, and carbon sequestration. This is especially pertinent with the current wildfire severity throughout the forests.  

Common agricultural practices, such as soil tilling and grazing contribute to carbon emissions. These sources are less natural than respiration, but sequestration occurs with proper management. Carbon Farming is based on the ability to increase microorganisms and fungi throughout available organic matter and soil structure, enhancing the ability to store carbon during photosynthetic principles. Carbon would then be benefitted to plant mass and soil health. Funding is available through organizations such as the Carbon Cycle Institute, which successfully implemented the Marin Carbon Project, in coordination with Regional Conservation Districts. The Marin Project has demonstrated the viability of these operations and given baseline reduction potentials. To date, MCP has both demonstrated and modeled total greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation rates over a 30-year period of more than 18 tons of CO2-equivalents per acre of land treated with organic amendments. Working lands should be encouraged to experiment with this application.

Traditionally, ranchers and farmers trend towards price setting, where choices in the operation being market driven. A current trend that suggests such a shift in management is the Holistic Management (HM) protocol. Much of HM practice is the application of high density rotational grazing filtered onto a natural landscape. There is a premise assumption that a co-evolution of grass species occurred with grazing species, so a symbiotic relationship can be measured and applied practically through the sigmoid curve. Much of Mono County rangeland’s grasses are bunch grasses, which may have and pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and SNBHS; these grazers do not have the same characteristics as cattle. However, private grassland can provide the landscape if seasonal variations are considered. With this needed to implement the program, such as increasing herd size to a larger animal unit per paddock. Rotation would be measured by time, frequency, and duration; modern electric fencing offering the ability to create these conditions. This technique may produce beneficial results in productivity in grasslands and soil health.