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Land Use Element
Background Over 80% of Humboldt County is forested, with about 50% of this acreage in private commercial timberland. Humboldt’s timber resource land base has not been subject to much development pressure, with only 1,000 acres out of 983,000 coming out of TPZ (Timber Production Zone), almost all of which was from the Eureka Community Plan update of 1995. More significantly, “preservation” pressure has removed about 80,000 acres from timber production since the inception of TPZ in 1977. For the most part, though, the timber production land base has remained relatively stable, with over 600,000 acres held by industrial timber companies, an area that has no houses and is managed for long-term timber production. Although there have been many changes in the timber industry over the last 20 years, Humboldt County continually leads the state in production volume. With growing economic and environmental pressures, though, Humboldt County’s timber production base is at a crossroads. The timber industry, like many others, has seen trend toward increasing globalization, with fewer larger mills serving regional needs, and divestitures of land holdings. Timber can grow at the rate of at least 350 MM board feet per year on Humboldt’s industrial timberlands, providing an opportunity for a continuing sustainable resource base. Choices exist for stand management and harvesting practices that can provide for long term sustainable timber production while conserving soil, water quality, and wildlife habitat. Since managing timber harvest practices is primarily the domain of the State, the County’s role in timberlands management lies largely in ensuring a continuing stable land base, limiting incompatible uses, and managing land uses along the wildland-urban interface. Some policies are included on harvesting regulations to provide guidance when the County is asked to weigh in on these issues, such as supporting the broader use of non-industrial timber management plans by the California Department of Forestry (CDF). The County hosted numerous workshops throughout the General Plan Update process to gather comments on proposed development scenarios and policy options. The protection of resource lands and open space and a desire for infill- oriented affordable housing consistently received significant public support. The importance of these agriculture and timber lands to the County’s culture, quality of life, environment and economy has been repeatedly stressed throughout the General Plan Update process. After a series of public workshops in August of 2004, the Board of Supervisors provided direction to staff when developing General Plan policies for the protection of resource lands and open space. These forest resource policy options included: • • • Additional policies to ensure adjacent uses are compatible with industrial timber operations A policy statement to support for long term continued timber production A policy statement to protect beneficial uses of sensitive watersheds and critical water supply areas
A policy to address urban interface / timber issues in urban fringe areas.
This Plan recognizes the differences in management needs between large industrially managed timber holdings and ranchland and small timber owners by providing distinct land use designations for these uses. Increased policy guidance is provided for the wildland-urban interface, support for increased use of long term timber management plans, and guidance on timberland withdrawals.
Manage timberlands for long term sustainable timber production while conserving soil, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
Timber Management/Legislative Directives T1. Support broader use of non-industrial timber management plans (NTMP’s), including raising the maximum acreage allowable under such plans and encouraging multiple landowner cooperative plans. T2. Support more effective and lower cost timber management regulations. Support coordination and clarification of rules for less than 3 acre conversions and streamside management areas. T3. Support continuance and funding of forest improvement programs.
T4. Affirm and support the public services provided by County government which are necessary in maintaining a viable forest products industry. Land Use Policies T5. Identify an Industrial Timberlands classification where residential uses and small parcels may conflict with timber production. T6. Withdrawal from Industrial Timber (IT) This plan will support map amendments to withdraw lands from the IT designation where an area can be identified which: a) a portion of which would be suitable for non-timber use; b) is adjacent to a roadway suitable for the intended use; c) would not increase risk of wildland fire; d) would be clustered to avoid increasing use conflicts between timber production and other intended uses; e) can be adequately serviced. The remaining lands most suitable for continued timber production shall be retained for permanent timber production through a conservation easement or other suitable instrument. The withdrawal area shall receive a density credit of 1 unit per 160 acres of land retained for permanent timber production, or per the average size of legally entitled parcels. Right to harvest agreements shall be secured on lands proposed for residential uses.
T7. Identify the areas of the wildland-urban interface where additional guidance for fire management, road and subdivision design, haul routes, and watershed management may be required to reduce use conflicts: a. Require subdivisions in these areas to include forested buffers between residential uses and adjacent timberlands. b. Identify preferred log haul routes to be maintained and acknowledged by residential users. c. Require “Right to Harvest” (and other timber management activities such as prescribed burns) acknowledgements in subdivision approval process. d. Defer to CDF on timber harvest reviews. Comment only where County land use patterns have significantly contributed to use conflicts at issue and where the County can assist in dispute resolution. e. Support maintenance of water quality and beneficial uses of water resources. f. Recognize helicopter yarding as environmentally preferred despite noise impacts. g. Require adequate structural fire response capabilities, compliance with Fire Safe standards, and ongoing fire management programs. h. Support targeted noticing of affected property owners for prescribed burn activities.
T8. Lot line adjustments of TPZ lands may be approved in order to consolidate by merger logical management units. Such adjustments shall be in keeping with the spirit and intent of TPZ and shall not result in net reduction of the area of TPZ available for forest management.
Land Use Classifications Timber Production (T) This designation classifies lands primarily suitable for the growing, harvesting and production of timber. Includes non-industrially managed TPZ lands and areas of mixed TPZ/AE, and industrially managed lands in and adjacent to CPA’s that may be non-contiguous with other management units or form logical boundaries in planning areas. Density Range/Minimum Parcel Size: 20 – 160 acres Industrial Timber (IT) This designation applies to lands that are industrially managed for timber production, primarily outside CPA’s, and where presence of additional homesites would likely contribute to conflict with such timber management; most of these lands are managed through a habitat conservation plan (HCP). Minor amounts of non-industrially managed land may be included to avoid fragmenting cohesive units. Residential use may be allowed as a conditionally permitted use where necessary for caretaking purposes, or for compatible recreational use, does not exceed a density of one unit per 600 acres, and records a right to harvest agreement for the subject property. Homesite Density: 0; Minimum Parcel Size: 160 acres
Wildland-Urban Interface Overlay This overlay designation applies to lands where planned or existing residential uses are adjacent to forested hillside areas where use conflicts and fire safety issues are special concerns. _____________________ TPZ = Timber Production Zone, AE= Ag Exclusive, CPA = Community Planning Area
About 27% of the land (634,000 acres) in Humboldt County is classified by the USDA as being in agriculture in their latest (2002) census, but this total includes large ranches which have a significant amount of timber production contributing to their operations. Also, changing methodologies and perspectives further complicate the issue of tracking farmland conversion. What is clear is that agricultural operators face growing challenges to maintaining viable operations. Rising costs, increasingly complex requirements, and growing development pressures are components of change that stress the industry. Agriculture is an important component of both the local economy and character. Yet, conversion of farmland to other uses has been the trend in recent decades. Despite protection policies in the Framework Plan, the conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses has been occurring at an alarming rate. Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 acres of agricultural lands has been converted to non-agricultural use each year since 1964. Rangeland has been converted to both timber production and rural subdivision. Productive farmland near population centers is often being replaced with poorer farmland that requires more energy and costs for transportation, fertilization, and irrigation (Dyett and Bhatia, 2002). Aging individual landowners is another trend in agriculture, particularly in cattle ranching (Anderson, 2002). Many of these individual ownerships will go through some sort of intergenerational transfer in the next 20 years. Often times with such property transfers, tracts will be broken up and parcel sizes reduced. For some of these property transfers, unfunded estate taxes could force some degree of subdivision. As discussed earlier in the Forest Resources section, the importance of productive resource lands to the County’s culture, quality of life, environment and economy has been repeatedly stressed throughout the General Plan Update process. After a series of public workshops in August of 2004, the Board of Supervisors provided direction to staff when developing General Plan policies for the protection of resource lands and open space. These agricultural resource policy options included: • • • A policy that the County take a proactive approach to conservation of working resource lands landscapes. A policy to ensure lot line adjustments and other development are consistent with the General Plan densities notwithstanding underlying land units.
A policy to allow flexibility for additional development at original homesite areas (similar to RCC standards) for large ranches.
Although there are many factors contributing to the profitability of agriculture and the sustainability of Humboldt’s agricultural economy, only a few can be controlled or manipulated. These include regulation of the amount of farmland lost to rural and urban development, insurance that subdivision of farmland will not adversely effect agricultural production, prevention of land use conflict, and utilization of legal tools to maintain and preserve farm acreage. Agriculture can benefit from having a stable land base, free of speculative land practices and long term policy certainty.
Promote and increase Humboldt County’s agricultural production and the economic viability of its agricultural operations. Conserve agricultural land for continued agricultural use.
Agricultural Management/Legislative Directives A1. Support the Right-to-Farm Ordinance to protect agricultural activities within the County.
A2. Support predator control programs, when found necessary, to reduce livestock depredation. A3. Support private non-profit land trusts that provide agricultural conservation programs in Humboldt County. A4. Support vegetation management programs (controlled burning, etc.) when it is found that they improve the availability and quality of rangeland for livestock and wildlife, reduce the hazard of disastrous wildfires and increase water quality and quantity. Land Use Policies A5. Agricultural lands shall be conserved and conflicts minimized between agricultural and non-agricultural uses through all of the following: A. By establishing stable boundaries separating urban and rural areas and when necessary, buffer areas to minimize land use conflicts. B. By promoting in-filling to achieve a more logical urban/agricultural boundary. C. By developing available lands not suited for agriculture, or those located within Urban Development and Expansion Area, prior to the conversion of agricultural lands outside of those areas. D. By assuring that public service facility expansions and non-agricultural development do not inhibit agricultural viability, either through increased assessment costs or degraded air or water quality. E. By broadening the utility of agricultural preserves and the Williamson Act Program. F. By allowing no residential subdivision of lands planned Agricultural Exclusive (AE). G. By allowing lot line adjustments of AE, AG, and AGR lands only where planned densities are met or there is no resulting increase in the number of building sites.
A6. Utilize Agricultural Exclusive (AE), Agricultural Grazing (AG), and Ranchland (AGR) land use classifications to ensure appropriate parcel sizes and land use for continuing availability of the necessary agricultural land base. A7. Withdrawal from Ranchland (AGR) This plan will support map amendments to withdraw lands from the AGR designation where an area can be identified which: a) a portion of which would be suitable for non-agricultural use; b) is adjacent to a roadway suitable for the intended use; c) would not increase risk of wildland fire; d) would be clustered to avoid increasing use conflicts between agricultural production and other intended uses; e) can be adequately serviced. The remaining lands most suitable for continued agricultural production shall be retained for permanent agricultural production through a conservation easement or other suitable instrument. The withdrawal area shall receive a density credit of 1 unit per 160 acres of land retained for permanent agricultural production, or per the average size of legally entitled parcels. Right to farm agreements shall be secured for proposed residential uses.
Land Use Classifications Agricultural Exclusive (AE) This plan designation applies primarily to bottomland farms and lands that can be irrigated. Typical uses include dairy, row crops, orchards, specialty agriculture and horticulture. Areas mapped under this designation include the lands that support the above described agricultural uses. Density Range: 20 – 60 acres/unit Agricultural Grazing (AG) This designation applies to dry land grazing areas in relatively small land holdings which support primarily cattle ranching, supplemented by timber harvest activities as part of the ranching operation. The Ranchland designation has been applied to the identified cohesive major cattle ranching areas, with the balance of the lands in this use designated AG. Some areas formerly carrying the AG designation have been re-designated to large lot rural residential to reflect apparent existing use. Density: 160 acres/unit
Ranchland (AGR) This designation applies to dry land grazing areas that support primarily cattle ranching, and timber as part of the ranching operation. The AGR has been applied to cohesive major cattle ranching areas and includes the lands that support the above described agricultural use, as well as TPZ land that may be inter-mixed and typically considered an integral part of the ranching operations. The balance of the lands in this use in smaller management units are designated AG. Density Range: 600 acres/unit A8. Implementation of this land use designation does not require rezoning of lands under Williamson Act contracts with TPZ and AE B5(160) zoning. A Williamson Act contract, together with TPZ and AE (or AG)B5(160) zoning shall be deemed to be an appropriate implementation of the Ranchland land use designation. A9. Residential uses on TPZ lands within Agricultural Preserves shall be compatible with the requirements of the Williamson Act and the local Guidelines.
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