We offer professional agricultural consulting that can assist in determining agricultural suitability, particularly for grazing and in rangeland management and monitoring. Much of our current work is on large ranches that are being considered for land conservation easements.
Our work products are unique since they take into account over 40 years of accumulated knowledge of agriculture and grazing, riparian enhancement, biological and other environmental resource conservation, and rangeland assessment and management. We have extensive experience in land use planning and suitability analysis, impact analysis under CEQA and NEPA, and also have ‘hands-on’ experience in ranch operations management.
Agricultural Suitability and Viability Studies
These studies are typically prepared for determining the relative value areas of lands for agricultural practices. Factors may include climate, soils, topography, water, sensitive resources, environmental constraints, access, infrastructure, facilities and adjacent land uses. Ag suitability maps become an integral part of planning and permitting, or for determining value for easements. Economic and/or operational viability can then be determined based on UC Cooperative Extension cost sheets or agency operational thresholds. These studies are typically prepared for private landowners and public agencies. They are especially important if a portion of a land holding is proposed for non-agricultural development.
Watershed Management and Grazing Plans
These plans help to inform landowners and agencies about opportunities to improve existing grazing operations, to rotate cattle to enhance sensitive resources such as native bunchgrasses, to reduce erosion and sedimentation, to improve riparian areas and water quality, increase rainfall infiltration, to obtain federal cost-share funding for improvements, and to improve weight gains in livestock.
Agricultural Conservation Easements
We provide technical preparation of agricultural management plans, rangeland assessments and present conditions reports to various groups including the California Rangeland Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, California Department of Conservation, The Trust for Public Land, Santa Lucia Preserve, Packard Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of establishing agricultural conservation easements.
These plans are often included as part of a Grazing Plan and will cover delineation of sensitive habitat exclusionary areas, seasonal rotational grazing schedules, erosion control and monitoring of key grazing species and rare and/or endangered species. Our philosophy and expertise is in recognizing opportunities for using livestock as a management tool in enhancing native grasslands and restoration of rangeland quality.
Interim Ranch Management
These services are provided to new owners, absentee owners, governmental agencies, schools and conservation organizations where interim management is essential in implementing management plans. Long-term management services can also be provided upon request. Services are custom tailored for the client and typically include formulation of leases, implementation of grazing management programs, evaluating potential lessees, and operational management consulting.
Our environmental review capabilities include preparation of technical agricultural resources sections of environmental impact reports and statements (soils, water availability, agricultural infrastructure and facilities and land uses). We have prepared EIRs on specific focused agricultural issues, on large-scale agricultural rezones (up to 470,000 acres), and on proposed development projects. These environmental documents have been prepared for the National Park Service, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and numerous cities, counties and special districts in California.
Land Use Planning
We have participated in the preparation of agricultural elements to General Plans, and in agency-initiated agricultural rezone studies. We have also reviewed agricultural elements for county planning agencies, and for the California Cattlemen’s Association and the Farm Bureau. We work closely with landowners and conservation organizations in determining agricultural preservation policies through specific project implementations such as clustering, land trusts, transfer of development credits, mitigation funding, mitigation banking, land purchases, formulation of project CC&Rs, and in the project planning of agriculture-compatible recreational developments such as riding and hiking trails and golf courses.
Public Agency Interface
SAGE Agricultural Consults can provide help in working with agencies regarding agricultural land use issues. We frequently coordinate permitting with county agencies, California Fish and Wildlife Department, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation District.
Litigation Support Services
We provide litigation support services, mediation and expert witness testimony for eminent domain cases involving ‘takings’ of agricultural land, access and trespass issues, land use compatibility issues, estate settlement, and grazing rights. We can work effectively with appraisers in establishing agricultural land values based on agricultural suitability factors. We specialize in the preparation and presentation of innovative courtroom graphics and maps.