Ag + Open Space Board of Directors Approve “Vital Lands Initiative”

January 26, 2021

Posted in: Press Releases

Ag + Open Space Board Approves “Vital Lands Initiative”

Long-range strategic plan will focus on climate change & social equity

SANTA ROSA, CA (January 26, 2021) – Today the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) approved the final draft of the Vital Lands Initiative – a long-term strategic plan that will guide the work of the district for the next 10 years. Building on 30 years of land conservation work and using the best available science and data, the Vital Lands Initiative outlines how the district will prioritize conservation of our county’s agricultural and natural lands, scenic viewsheds and greenbelt areas, and land for recreation, education, and urban open space within communities. The final plan is available for download at

“Land conservation plays a critical role in addressing the climate crisis and making us more resilient by protecting our communities from wildfires, flooding, and sea-level rise, preventing sprawl, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting carbon sequestration in our farms, ranches, and forests,” said Ag + Open Space Board Chair and Sonoma County Supervisor, Lynda Hopkins. “Further, our healthy watersheds are critical to wildlife and human communities, and our treasured parks, trails, and recreational areas provide beauty, adventure, and solace for everyone in our community. The Vital Lands Initiative takes all of this into account and lays out an ambitious, long-term blueprint for a vibrant, beautiful, and climate-resilient Sonoma County.”

As one of the leading publicly-funded land conservation agencies in the country, Ag + Open Space has worked diligently over the past 30 years to protect what people love most about Sonoma County. Since 1990, the district has preserved more than 122,000 acres of land in Sonoma County, including natural areas that provide clean and abundant water, as well as critical habitat for fish, wildlife, and native plants. The agency has protected numerous farms and ranches that form the backbone of our local economy and food supply and helped to keep local, multi-generational farming families in operation. Ag + Open Space has protected many of the scenic vistas, mountains, and open spaces that make Sonoma County such a beautiful place to visit and call home, as well as provided new parks, preserves, trails, and urban open spaces throughout the county so that everyone can enjoy our natural landscape. In addition, Ag + Open Space supports a robust education program in our local schools to help build the next generation of conservationists.

“While we have accomplished much as a community, there is more work to do as we face new challenges as a county, a state, and a planet,” said Ag + Open Space Interim General Manager, Caryl Hart. “As we look ahead to the next decade and beyond, we face exceptional challenges – an ongoing global pandemic; growing impacts of climate change including sea-level rise and increased drought, wildfires, and floods; population growth; escalating land values; increased pressure on farmland, open space, and wildlife habitat. The Vital Lands Initiative will provide the roadmap necessary to address these challenges and preserve a healthy, beautiful, and resilient Sonoma County now and for future generations.”

With an emphasis on climate resiliency and social equity, the plan includes goals, objectives, and strategies that detail how the agency will approach conserving the most critical lands to protect farms and ranches, provide critical habitat for plants and wildlife, offer beautiful places for people to enjoy and explore, and create buffers around our cities so that our communities retain their character and sense of place. The plan uses the best available science, data, and technical information, and relies heavily upon community input gathered through community meetings, technical workshops, stakeholder interviews, polling, community events, and online engagement.

“Over the past few years, the district has engaged with hundreds of community members and groups through public meetings, workshops, and discussions with local leaders, partners, and technical experts, and the plan is much better as a result of this input,” added Hart. “We look forward to implementing this shared vision for land conservation in Sonoma County and the multitude of benefits the community receives as a result of this work.”

About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource, and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. The organization is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 122,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected through a quarter-cent sales tax originally approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit