Placer tops foothill development |

Placer tops foothill development

Patrick McCartney

Urban development displaced agricultural land at a record pace in El Dorado and Placer counties the last two years, according to a report released by the California Department of Conservation.

Loss of farmland was higher in the two Lake Tahoe counties than in three other foothill counties of the Sierra Nevada, the report concluded.

Yet, most of the agricultural land that was developed in El Dorado County was marginally productive for grazing, said El Dorado Supervisor John Upton, who added that county planners are more concerned with prime agricultural land.

The 1994-96 Farmland Conversion Report determined that 2,109 acres of Placer County agricultural land were converted to urban use, the highest amount in the 12 years the conservation department has tracked the loss of farm land. In the previous period, 655 acres of agricultural land was developed.

Even with the development, Placer County still has 186,000 of agricultural land left, with 153,000 of that farm land suitable for crop production and the rest suited for grazing.

In El Dorado County, the 798 acres of converted farm land also set a new record, easily eclipsing the 159 acres of farm land that were developed in the two previous years.

Of the three other foothill counties studied in the report, Amador County lost 61 acres of agricultural land to urbanization, while neither Nevada nor Mariposa counties reported any loss of agricultural land.

In both El Dorado and Placer counties, most of the converted land was used only for cattle grazing. More than 2,000 of Placer County’s 2,109 acres was grazing land.

The report attributed the conversion to urban development in eastern Rocklin and western Folsom.

In El Dorado County, 520 of the 798 converted acres had been grazing land. The county retains 273,000 acres of agricultural land, of which the largest amount (185,000 acres) is grazing land. Most of the converted land was attributed to the development of the Serrano golf course and residential community.

Upton said the latest report is no cause for concern.

“That grazing land hasn’t been economic for many years,” Upton said. “The agricultural land with the potential to be orchards and vineyards are the lands we are carefully protecting.”

Much of the developed grazing land was already surrounded by urban development, which made cattle grazing difficult and led to the deaths of cattle that wandered away, he said.

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