Climate Action and Resiliency

Make Sonoma County carbon neutral by 2030.

Goal 5, Objective 2

Develop policies to maximize carbon sequestration and minimize the loss of natural carbon sinks including old-growth forests, the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and rangelands. Encourage agricultural and open space land management to maximize sequestration. Develop a framework and policies to incentivize collaboration with private and public land owners.
On Track 10%

Updated: January 2024

Summary of objective implementation status (achievements or progress over last year; significant delays or issues, etc.)

The Sonoma County Climate Resilient Lands Strategy, adopted September 13, 2022, and the County of Sonoma Carbon Inventory and Sequestration Potential Study, adopted December 7, 2023, provide the County with frameworks for conservation and management of natural and agricultural lands that support climate change adaptation, optimization of carbon sequestration, and conservation and enhancement of natural carbon sinks. The General Plan update is now underway and will also include land use policies that support climate resilience.

Ag + Open Space is currently working on 38 conservation easements and 28 Matching Grant (urban open space)ects located throughout the county. Additionally, Ag + Open Space has identified and initiated outreach in high priority areas for floodplain conservation and restoration, and will further outreach efforts in priority areas for climate resilience and biodiversity in 2024. Ag + Open Space has created a Community Resources Program to provide community support and engagement through outreach and communication, outings and education, government relations, grant funding, and technical expertise to increase resilience of natural and human communities.

The County’s Climate Action and Resiliency Division (CARD) was awarded $10 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service grant program in September 2022. CARD is the lead entity on the grant, which is a partnership with local resource conservation districts, non-profits, and Marin and Sonoma ounty agencies. Work funded by this grant will increase carbon sequestration through enhanced agricultural practices.

Key milestone update (include relevant metrics, if applicable)

  • Within the current reporting period (January 2023-December 2023), Ag + Open Space acquired conservation easements over 4 properties – one on the western edge of the City of Cloverdale, two along the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Blucher Creek, and one on Sonoma Mountain. In November 2023, Ag + Open Space purchased the Chanslor Ranch property north of Bodega, which will ultimately be transferred to Regional Parks. These properties, together with the 123,000 acres previously protected by Ag + Open Space, provide numerous climate change adaptation and community benefits, including carbon sequestration, recreational land, flood risk reduction and enhanced streamside protections, production of local food and fiber, and landscape connectivity for the movement and migration of plants and animals.
  • The report, County of Sonoma Carbon Inventory and Sequestration Potential Study, October 2023 was finalized and accepted by the Board on December 7, 2023 This report forms the data synthesis and modeling for CAR5.1 and will also support the tasks for this objective.

Coordination and partnership update

Ag + Open Space is currently working with county agencies such as Sonoma Water, Permit Sonoma, Public Infrastructure, and Regional Parks and non-profit partners such as Sonoma Land Trust, Save the Redwoods League, The Conservation Fund, and the Wildlands Conservancy on land conservation projects throughout the county. Ag + Open Space is also working on urban open space Matching Grant projects with local cities including Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, and Windsor. In the coming year, we will also partner with agricultural organizations, county agencies, Resource Conservation Districts, and science-based organizations to encourage enhanced land management and agricultural production practices.

There has been regular coordination and partnership with County departments and Special Districts including the Climate Action and Resiliency Division in the County Administrator’s Office, Ag + Open Space, Sonoma Water, Permit Sonoma, and the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority.  In addition, a two-day carbon-sequestration-potential workshop was held in June 2023 with various public and private land management partners with the results summarized in the Appendices to the County of Sonoma Carbon Inventory and Sequestration Potential Study, October 2023.

Community, equity and climate update

Ag + Open Space has incorporated equity criteria into our project evaluation processes and has created a Farmland for All program with the intention of increasing equitable access to agricultural lands. Ag + Open Space’s Community Resources team has hired two additional staff to reinforce our commitment to community engagement. Our community engagement work currently includes our Public Outings and Youth Education program that partners with local nonprofits to provide free outings, field trips, and workforce development opportunities throughout the county. In the last three years, that program has over 24,000 participants and recently developed new contracts with six partners to continue this work for another three years. Ag + Open Space also regularly sponsors and/or attends community events with priority focused on BIPOC and historically underrepresented communities. Several new programs are also in development that are focused on better serving and engaging with BIPOC communities, Tribal nations, Spanish-speakers and families. Throughout, Ag + Open Space’s communications and community engagement work prioritizes the connections between land conservation and climate resiliency and adaptation. .

Funding narrative (If this objective received Strategic Plan funding in year 1 or year 2, please provide a status of expenditures to date.)

Ag + Open Space sales tax funding provides a significant opportunity to fund land conservation efforts. These funds are consistently leveraged with public and private funding sources at the federal, state and local level. Ag + Open Space currently has over $5 million in approved grants not including funds being provided by our numerous partners. Ag + Open Space is working with the County (CAO and Regional Parks) to develop recommendations for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria mitigation funding for Parks and Open Space that include enhancing land management and agricultural production and will request a formal consultative process with Graton.

The County’s Climate Action and Resiliency Division (CARD) was awarded $10 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service grant program in September 2022.

Funding for update of the General Plan will be needed to adopt land use policies.