Farm Bureau takes legal action to protect farmland
» July 23, 2012 «
Farm group seeks further environmental review of Willits highway bypass
Saying that a highway project has turned into a farmland-conversion project instead, the California Farm Bureau Federation filed documents requesting that state and federal agencies review and reduce the impact on agricultural land. The case involves a planned Highway 101 bypass around the city of Willits.
Acting in federal court in San Francisco, CFBF filed a motion to join in an existing lawsuit that challenges environmental review of the Willits Bypass Project; defendants include the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Transportation.
In its motion, Farm Bureau notes that the bypass originally would have affected 150 acres of farmland. But now, more than 2,000 acres of land will be affected—with at least 400 acres removed permanently from agricultural use—as government agencies seek agricultural land to mitigate for wetlands affected by the bypass.
"Farmland plays an important role in the economy and the environment, both in Mendocino County and statewide," CFBF President Paul Wenger said. "All too often, public agencies try to convert farmland as a convenient way to address other issues. But that comes at an environmental cost, and the agencies in the Willits bypass project didn't work hard enough to review that."
Much of the farmland that would be taken out of production for the bypass would be converted to wetlands, to make up for loss of existing wetlands in the path of the project.
"We don't oppose the bypass, but we do oppose the potential for an extraordinarily high loss of farmland that the agencies would require to build it and to mitigate for its wetlands impacts," CFBF Associate Counsel Kari Fisher said. "For every acre of wetlands the agencies want to mitigate, they would impact 30 acres of farmland. That significant impact would have a ripple effect on the area's agricultural-based economy, particularly for the farming and ranching families who would lose their land."
In its motion, Farm Bureau asks the court to require the agencies to conduct adequate environmental review of the impact on farmland and to prohibit action on the project until the agencies complete that review.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.Top