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Farmland too often not seen for environmental benefits


Farmland is too often seen as merely a 'place-holder' for development, when in fact it has many benefits for humans and wildlife alike.

One of the fascinating and little-promoted aspects of agriculture is the amount of natural habitat all this “open space” creates.

Years ago I was at a meeting in Modesto where the economic development coordinator for the City of San Jose spoke. I can’t recall her topic, but her general premise was this – and I paraphrase: Y’all have too much open space over here. Why aren’t you building more buildings like we are in the Silicon Valley?”

My response to the president of the local chamber of commerce, who was sitting next to me, was somewhat sarcastic, somewhat serious. “We call that open space ‘farmland’.”

For all that agriculture provides in terms of food and fiber for the human inhabitants of this orb we call home, it’s also a massive source of habitat for nature. While there may not be one single, shining example that outweighs all the other examples of this, examples are nonetheless out there.

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, for instance, sits smack dab below the Pacific Flyway. So do the thousands of acres of rice fields that dot the Sacramento Valley landscape. These fields are home to countless birds: raptors, water fowl and other species of flying creature. They are also home to a host of crawling and swimming critters that these birds feed upon.

As it so happens, these fields also feed human beings all over the globe. How’s that for biodiversity in action? Rice fields feeding humans while also providing habitat for a whole list of creatures that we can enjoy watching and photographing.

If you want to see some excellent photos that illustrate this, check out the California Rice Commission’s Flickr page.

When was the last time someone put up a photo blog of the wonderful wildlife habitat created by rampant urban growth and the concrete caverns created by urban planners and economic development agencies?


Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Lisa Fields (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2013

A nice piece, well stated. We need more of this in the farm press, but especially in mainstream media. Features that illustrate farmers as conservationists and highlight collaborative efforts between farm and conservation groups: not the government agencies although I appreciate and respect them, but groups like Audubon and Trout Unlimited, etc. There's a great example in the Rio Grande involving NM Audubon and The Elephant Butte Irrigation District farmers, just published in Audubon magazine.

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