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Posts Tagged: Luke Macaulay

CalLands maps cropland ownership across California

Two UCANR Cooperative Extension specialists have recently launched CalLands, a powerful online tool that can help users understand how land ownership impacts California's croplands.

To build the CalLands' interactive website, Luke Macaulay and Van Butsic — both assistant UC Cooperative Extension specialists based in UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management — combined satellite-generated maps of land cover created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with publicly available land ownership records. Next, they anonymized ownership identity and pulled data from all 58 California counties to include parcels of land larger than five acres. The result is a database that features 543,495 privately-owned properties across the state, creating a data-rich map of crops and ownership boundary lines in every county. The interactive map can be filtered by county to display characteristics of land ownership, percentages of private and public ownership, breakdowns by crop-type, and summaries of land-use statistics.

A screenshot of CalLands, and interactive online database that allows stakeholders to understand cropland use and ownership characteristics.

CalLands allows users to explore how crops are distributed within a county or across the state or understand how ownership size impacts how land is used. In a 2017 study on cropland ownership published in California Agriculture, Butsic and Macaulay discovered that the largest five percent of properties account for 50 percent of California cropland. The two created CalLands with the aim of helping a wide variety of stakeholders understand land cover and land use at the county and individual land ownership scale.

A crop of California almonds, grown on a plot of land that was previously home to grassland. Photo: Luke Macaulay

“CalLands helps expand people's understanding of the landscape and how farmers across the state are using their land,” Macaulay says.

The website tells the story in visual terms of the location of key crops over time, including water-intensive plants like alfalfa and almonds, and illustrates the locations and acreages of both annual and perennial crops. This information may be useful for those seeking to understand agricultural water use and expansion and change of crops over time. The team hopes that the tool will also help scientists conduct research that is beneficial to many agricultural stakeholders, such as UC Cooperative Extension specialists creating outreach programming, county officials proposing regulations, and resource managers hoping to understand cropland production.

Currently, CalLands features cropland data from 2013-2017, allowing users to toggle between these annual datasets. Macaulay and Butsic plan for future versions of CalLands to include the capability of producing graphs to help users understand how crop planting changes over time as farming shifts and land changes hands. “We look forward to adding more features to CalLands,” Butsic said. “We want to implement changes on the site based on what Californians need.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 8:22 AM
Tags: land use (4), Luke Macaulay (2), Van Butsic (12)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Natural Resources

Recreation on private land offers potential for conservation

Opening the door for recreational activities - such as wildlife watching - on private land is an incentive for conservation. (Photo: Robin Eliason, USDA)
Successfully integrating human activities with ecosystem conservation forms the foundation of sustainability and is key to maintaining biological diversity. A new study has found that recreational use of private land in the U.S. could have significant benefits for both conservation efforts and economic return, especially when coupled with certain policy mechanisms.

The study, published Aug. 5, 2016, in the journal Land Use Policy, found that approximately 440 million acres of private land — roughly 22 percent of the contiguous land area of the U.S. — are either leased or owned for wildlife-associated recreation, which is defined as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching. Hunting was the most widespread recreational use, accounting for 81 percent of the total acreage (356 million acres).

Luke Macaulay, an UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, authored the study, which used 18 national surveys over 14 years for a comprehensive analysis. Drawing upon multiple years and multiple sources of surveys, this study provides the most detailed and precise estimates available of private land recreation in the U.S.

The study estimated the annual spending for wildlife-associated recreation on private land to be $814 million in day-use fees, $1.48 billion for long-term leases, and $14.8 billion for ownership of land primarily for recreation.

It also found that on crop and grazing land, landowners who earn income from recreation are more likely to participate in government conservation programs and are more likely to pay for private conservation practices, such as creating buffers around sensitive streams or controlling invasive weeds on rangelands.

Macaulay suggests that this data provides support for the idea that recreation incentivizes conservation at higher rates than agricultural activities alone.

“Wildlife habitat on private land is vulnerable to degradation and loss, but this study highlights recreation as an incentive for conservation," he said. "That's because many landowners are receiving either personal enjoyment or financial benefit from the wildlife that live on their land.”

The study showed that hunters own or lease much larger properties than anglers or wildlife-watchers, which indicates that hunting may provide a greater economic incentive for maintaining large, unfragmented properties that provide a variety of conservation benefits.

“Large properties are beneficial for a variety of reasons; for example, some species require large expanses of unbroken habitat to thrive, while others are particularly sensitive to the impacts of roads, fences, and invasive plant and animal species that oftentimes accompany more fragmented landscapes," Macaulay said.

Macaulay believes that the role of recreation in private land conservation has largely been overlooked due to the relatively low participation rate of landowners earning income from recreation. For example, only 7.3 percent of forest landowners earn income from recreation, but this study found that those individuals own much larger properties that account for 33.5 percent of all private forestland.

Macaulay stressed that the conservation benefits of hunting depended on a system of scientifically-developed game laws and effective enforcement, which is generally the case across the U.S.  These mechanisms are important to curtail problems of over-harvesting and poaching.

The study also emphasized the importance of encouraging conservation practices in conjunction with recreation in order to yield benefits for both conservation and landowner economic return. Macaulay suggested several policy measures to achieve this, including tying habitat improvement practices to property tax breaks that rural landowners receive — an approach that some states have already taken — as well as evaluating, enhancing, and expanding state programs that give regulatory flexibility for hunting in exchange for conservation practices.

Read the research article on the Land Use Policy website.

Posted on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 8:57 AM
Tags: Luke Macaulay (2), wildlife (33)

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