Working Landscapes Action Team

What are Working Landscapes?
California’s economy, people and environment are hugely dependent on working landscapes, which include farmland, ranches, forests, wetlands, mines, water bodies and other natural resource lands, both private and public.

Problem Statement
Working landscapes are undergoing major changes and there are not adequate tools or processes to address these changes. Lack of good data, smart policy, civic stewardship, access to capital, poor regulatory environment and effective collaboration threaten to inhibit the state’s ability to make effective management and regulatory decisions about working landscapes. 

Goal Statement
• Design and implement policy and programs that balance all potential values of working landscapes - reflecting true costs and benefits provided to both urban and rural communities, today and for future generations. Ensure that recommended policy and actions build upon the work of earlier initiatives and that all stakeholders are engaged.

Action Team Co-Leads

  • Glenda Humiston, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • A.G. Kawamura, Solutions from the Land Dialogue

For a full list of Action Team members, click here. For the team’s 2012 accomplishments, see the Summit’s 2013 Year-End Summary Report.

Tracking Progress

Action Team

Goals for the Year

Progress update - September 1, 2015

Priority action identified in Summit Plan to Advance Prosperity in 2014:

Expand use of data-driven approach to demonstrate the importance of working landscapes--and to show how managing these lands can improve the economy.

Data-driven decision-making: Fund the statewide expansion of open-source software and resource planning efforts such as Urban Footprint and the Sacramento Area Council of Government's Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS).

Water: State includes Summit ideas--including market-based incentives rewarding land stewardship that enhances ecosystem services--in budgeting for Water Action Plan and drafting of state water bond.

Sustainable communities: A new opportunity for collaboration among four Action Teams emerged in January to include Summit ideas in a range of state actions related to sustainable communities and environmental planning.

Update - July 30, 2014 Data-driven decisions: The team has conducted meetings with the Strategic Growth Council, White House Rural Council, AgTech Partners, Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, and others to expand the utilization of data-driven planning and decision-making. A research proposal has been submitted to the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture to fund the addition of ecosystem services data modeling to RUCS. Water: In addition to promoting the Summit’s 11 ways the state can sustainably respond to the drought, the Working Landscapes team assisted the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply with a new report, From Crisis to Connectivity: Renewed Thinking About Managing California’s Water and Food Supply. Update - June 16, 2014 Water and transportation: The 2014-15 state budget directs more than $1 billion toward one of the Summit’s top priorities: closing the state’s massive infrastructure deficit and increasing investments in sustainable communities. The budget includes several key provisions supported by the Summit, directing 35 percent of all future cap-and-trade revenues to transit, affordable housing, and sustainable communities—a source of funding totaling almost $1 billion annually. It also directs more than $100 million in funds to support drought response and fire-fighting this summer, bringing total water emergency spending this year to more than $800 million. Capital investments: Leaders of the Capital and Working Landscapes action teams will be meeting in July with representatives from several federal agencies and statewide small business groups to determine the best approach to building--and maintaining--a repository for information about regional capital intermediaries, as well as creating a template for each region to use to ensure this information is in a similar format. Participants in the meeting include the California Small Business Association, California Association for Micro Business Opportunity, and California Association for Local Economic Development, as well as several potential federal partners. Update - April 5, 2014 Data, water, and sustainable communities:
The co-leads of the Working Landscapes team signed a February 25 letter to the Governor and Legislative leaders outlining 11 Summit recommendations for aiming the state's expanding drought response at the triple bottom line. The letter describes two steps the state can take this year use technology to support working landscapes--expanding access to water and land-use data and scaling-up resources planning efforts like RUCS. In March and April, Summit staff conducted briefings with aides to the authors of four water bonds, along with members of the governor's Drought Task Force.
Working Landscapes Team's 2013 Action Plan

1. Data-Based Modeling

Develop statewide data and spatial modeling capacity to provide a range of economic and environmental indicators and metrics to assess strategies that protect and enhance working landscapes. This essential tool will provide policy makers, public agencies and the private sector new information and enable better decisions.

Fund the expansion of open-source software and resources planning efforts - such as Urban Footprint and the Sacramento Area Council of Government's Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS) project - to provide working lands modeling and planning that enhances both environmental-services analysis and resource-based industries.

Ensure that this toolkit is available throughout California; and ensure that users can easily customize it to suit their needs and that enhancements can be readily shared with other users.

Utilize this analysis capacity to bring an array of stakeholders to the table and facilitate meaningful conversations and better decision making about working landscapes. Coordinate data already collected by local, regional and state agencies.

Update - July 30, 2014: See update above November 8, 2013 Summit commitments:
• Expand use of open-source software: 11 regional, state and federal leaders committed to support efforts to take RUCS statewide, to write case studies and develop data analysis for rural clusters. Commitments were also made to provide sector-based labor market reports and economic data and to create and scale models and impacts to illustrate benefits and possibilities of coexistence. One Action Team lead committed to convene a meeting to organize data sharing and better target investments in data collection.

2. Policy Integration:

Integrate desired outcomes of various policy frameworks - including but not limited to AB 32, SB 375, farmland protection and watershed management, - to define cohesive and realistic goals for balancing the needs to accommodate urban growth with the needs to conserve and enhance working landscapes. Many policies are implemented in uncoordinated and inconsistent fashion, burdening land managers without producing a corresponding benefit. An integrated policy framework - with flexibility for regional variance in climate, watershed function, species mix, and economic activities - would change this dynamic and enhance the economic and ecological bounty of California's working landscapes while helping to provide a high quality of life in urban areas.

Develop regional objectives for land and water management and enlist appropriate stakeholders to take responsibility for each objective; this should also facilitate responsible stewardship of leased lands and mixed ownership.

Seek balanced solutions to urban and rural land use planning that are economically efficient in providing services, infrastructure and quality of life amenities.

Remove barriers that limit participation in programs, including but not limited to availability of relevant science and/or methodology, policy analysis, cost barriers, and conflict between overlapping regulatory regimes.

Coordinate the goals and objectives of OPR, Strategic Growth Council, LAFCO, DOC, CDFA and other agencies; encourage inclusion of environmental and economic metrics.

Link SB 375 (Sustainable Community Strategy and Metropolitan Transportation Plans) goals, funding and implementation to actions supporting working landscapes, goods movement and city-centered growth.

Update - July 30, 2014: See update above November 8, 2013 Summit commitments:
• Seek balanced solutions: Representatives of Sonoma, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties will document the value of working lands and natural areas and share this information with the community, funders and decision makers to enhance investment in conservation. • Lessons learned: Six regional leaders committed to work together to share lessons learned and outcomes of local projects. • Convene partners: One Action Team lead committed to convene meeting to strategize how to move implementation of recommendations. • Remove barriers: One state leader committed to coordinate/expedite regulatory review for restoration.

3. Market-Based Incentives

Develop and test market-based incentives to reward land stewardship that enhances ecosystem services and demonstrates societal benefits of resource management. Establish verification measures that provide confidence to landowners, investors and policy makers.

Implement recommendations from the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment report (""Guidelines for Creating Effective Ecosystem Services Incentive Programs and Policy"" 2012).

Support initiatives to quantify and document the value of ecosystem services - an integral step towards developing future markets - such as AB 32 Carbon Credits and the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Ecosystem Services Database. Document ""cost avoided"" for development choices.

Seek upper-watershed improvements that increase water supply and quality, improve habitat and reduce forest fire damage.

Develop a new program for upstream watershed management in conjunction with the 2014 California Water Bond, Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, and other efforts.

Replicate innovative ratepayer-based, upstream water management opportunities to support water quality and quantity for all towns and cities.

Advance policies, programs and regulations that provide regulatory certainty and predictability for land owners/managers to incentivize proactive management that enhances water quality and quantity, soil conservation, threatened and endangered species, marketable resources and other environmental services.

Utilize safe-harbor agreements in more instances, and fully implement the so-far unused state SHA program created by SB 448.

Collaborate with efforts to reform CEQA that offer positive support for working landscapes and explore options to reduce frivolous litigation.

Expand grant and loan programs for projects that enhance environmental services, including but not limited to directing state cap-and-trade revenues to working landscapes and developing land-banking programs.

Update - July 30, 2014: Ecosystem services: Three counties—Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara—have begun implementing projects on ecosystem services through a USDA grant program. With the Working Landscapes team’s support, the Scientific Committee of the California Department of Food and Agriculture is also advancing work on quantifying ecosystem services on production agriculture activities. November 8, 2013 Summit commitments:
• Utilize Safe Harbor Agreements: One regional leader committed to pioneer NOAA's first Safe Harbor Agreement with the Redwood Forest Foundation. • Quantify and document value: Eleven regional and state leaders, including Action Team leads and a Summit co-chair, committed to document the economic value of working lands, inventory success stories, and determine effective strategies to reward land stewardship practices that enhance ecosystem services and conserve high priority agricultural lands.

4. Capital Investments

Align public and private investments to create a competitive advantage in markets and industries connected to working landscapes and rural communities; target capital to viable natural-resource-dependent enterprises.

Re-orient economic development and workforce programs to support regional industry clusters emphasizing rural and urban collaboration; develop data and analysis to identify clusters, target policy, and track performance.

Establish a grants program to address gaps in cluster performance.

Pursue industry-based partnerships and leverage private and public resources.

Support and expand entrepreneur-training programs, apprentice opportunities and business services.

Improve support and services to businesses interested in local, national, and international markets.

Increase investment in rural and natural resource-based economies.

Link capital to entrepreneurs, well-managed businesses, infrastructure and clusters. Create regional investment funds and innovations like crowdfunding and microloans.

Increase investment in key infrastructure (roads, bridges, flood control, water storage/conveyance, broadband, etc.).

Utilize restoration of natural resources and enhanced experiences on publicly accessible lands to provide jobs and develop vibrant resource-based economies.

Develop state and regional goods-movement strategies; ensure rural needs are met.

Organize collaboration of state's technology clusters, academic and research resources.

Improve transfer of research to commercialized technology and implementation tools.

Establish vibrant intercommunity information and innovation dissemination methods. Foster an entrepreneurial culture and ""eco-system"" including for the agriculture cluster.

Explore interconnections with Capital and Advancing Manufacturing teams.

Update - July 30, 2014: Capital investments: Economic development groups operating in California’s 22 northernmost counties have formalized a collaboration that has allowed them to increase the scale and reach of their capital and technical expertise. Together, the new California Finance Consortium will serve as a regional source of information on accessing capital for small businesses in northern California. Separately, the Summit supported an effort by the Central Valley AgPLUS coalition to submit a grant proposal to the White House Rural Policy Council for consideration as a regional manufacturing hub. November 8, 2013 Summit commitments:
• Increase investment: Seven regional and federal leaders committed to promote and attract investment to local working lands initiatives, to document those efforts, and to develop effective regional collaboratives to encourage increased investment. • Partnerships: Two Action Team leads committed to work with Manufacturing and Capital Action Teams to identify opportunities for greater collective impact. • Develop Community Capital Collaborative and host regional roundtables: Two regional and federal leaders committed to investing time and money in convening regional partners to bridge the urban-rural divide.