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Winter 2008


A local environmental group based in Yolo County has launched a campaign to get Congress to designate over 800,000 acres in five north state counties as a National Conservation Area (NCA). Over 400,000 acres of that land is privately owned, and therein lies the problem.

NCA’s are designated by Congress to conserve, protect, enhance, and manage public land areas for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. NCA’s claim to feature exceptional natural, recreational, cultural, wildlife, aquatic, archeological, paleontological, historical, educational or scientific resources. There are currently thirteen NCA’s in the United States and two in California.

The current region of interest in the Blue Ridge Berryessa (BRB) area which encompasses land in Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Yolo Counties. According to the proponents, Tuleyome, the NCA designation “…is really about our vision for the future. What will our region look like in 150 years? We hope that it will remain much as it is with important ecosystems protected, a thriving and sustainable working landscape, and enhanced recreation consistent with these goals”.

While their intentions may sound noble, an NCA designation will negatively impact the region and the private landowners within the sphere of influence. An NCA designation creates a top down approach to zoning, creating a mechanism by which the federal government will have land use authority. The designation will also create an influx of funds to acquire additional private property within the boundary.

The legislation has yet to be drafted, but is expected to be within the coming months. Unfortunately, an NCA designation may negatively impact farmers and ranchers in the area. The NCA has boundaries, and those boundaries have consequences for those unfortunate enough to have property within them.

While many special interest groups, whether environmental or developers, may want to plan the future of this region it is the role of local government. Taking away local control will lead to conflicts and small rural farmers and ranchers will be paying the price.

Furthermore, this is not a new idea that the federal government has come up with to gain control over private property. Whether it is called a National Heritage Area, a National Historic District, Wild and Scenic Rivers or National Conservation Area all are federal plans to protect an area and create a management plan for the region. The management plan creates a way by which the government agency can place restrictions on private landowners. Property values can diminish with arbitrary layers of protection over them.

After a while, it is no longer economically viable for someone to farm or ranch in these designations which could eventually make them a willing seller of their land.

The NCA designation is just simply not worth it. The ploy that the government can preserve your land better than you for future generations is simply a myth. It is purely a land grab and power grab, and nothing more. ■

National Conservation Areas
Western United States
Designated by Congress

Alaska: 1,220,000-acres designated in1980.

Arizona: 21,767-acres designated in 1990; 42,000-acres designated in 2000; 58,000-acres designated 1988.

California: 9,500,000-acres designated in 1976; 60,000-acres designated in 1970.

Colorado: 57,727-acres designated in 1999; 122,300 acre designation.

Idaho: 484,873-acres designated in 1993.

Nevada: 1.2 million acres designated in 2000; 195,610-acre area; 48,000-acres designated in 2002.

New Mexico: 262,100-acres designated in 1987.

Total NCA Acreage: 13,272,377 acres.

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