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Urban Encroachment on Agriculture in Northern CaliforniaTerm Paper

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Urban Encroachment on Agriculture in Northern California

In the past few years, the continued loss of rich agricultural lands in Northern California to urban encroachment has emerged as an issue of significant concern to land use specialists, regional planners, government officials and historical researchers alike. The population in California is expected to increase by about one third over the next 30 years. It is estimated that the majority of this population will spread to the metropolitan areas, which are already facing difficulties in making accommodations for new development. As new developments grow, the existing land typically used for agriculture seems to be diminishing. As a result, California is slowly using up all of its agricultural resources to the growth of cities to maintain the population. This is an increasing concern for California, and regional planners have estimated that the irreplaceable loss of land will have harmful lasting effects into the future. Agriculture in California is a $26 billion dollar industry, and if not abated, the potential loss over the next 40 to 80 years is predicted to devastate California's agricultural base (Californians for Population Stabilization, 2002). Thus, new studies in urban planning are critical to ensure that agriculture has a secure future in Northern California.

Purpose of the Study long-term research study conducted with the goal of examining California's urban encroachment issue will become a critical factor for the state officials to consider when making decisions regarding land planning in California's future. The purpose of such a study would take into consideration many of the factors that will be discussed below. California is the third largest state in the United States, with a landscape that contains mountains, hills, peaks and numerous fertile basins. California's population consists of more than 34 million people, with future growth predicted to be 45 million people n 2020. The urban areas and economic production of California are found in the valleys and lowlands, and manufacturing, agriculture, and related activities are California's principle sources of income. They are based in large part on the state's wealth of natural resources, its productive farmlands, its large and highly skilled labor force, and its ability to market its output both at home and abroad (Encarta, 1006). If past trends continue, the majority of California's population growth will occur at the edges of existing metropolitan areas, thus increasing the need for population planning. As suburban growth consumes ever more critical habitat, remaining natural areas in California take on new importance as ecological preserves, especially in coastal and desert areas (Landis & Reilly, 2001).

In addition to population planning, the encroachment of urban growth will have severe impacts on local land use and the environment. This paper will provide a case study of the past, present and future affects of urban encroachment in Northern California, and will offer the state's governor solutions to adequately prepare the legislature for future encroachment issues. It will focus on the San Joaquin Valley area, but will touch on other areas as well. The purpose of the study is to examine the past history of urban encroachment, in correlation with statistical and graphical data, to determine the direction and pattern urban encroachment will take in the future. The literature review in this paper will provide an illustration of the affects of urban encroachment in California over the last 60 years, noting patterns and trends. The paper will conclude with recommendations for protecting the agriculture in Northern California from future urban encroachment.

History of San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley area is a large area that consists of 8 different counties; it can be described as the southern portion of the Central Valley of California that extends from the Sierra Nevada to the Coast Ranges. The Mexican-American settlement of the San Joaquin Valley began in the 19th century, and since that time, this region has been a significant agricultural region. In the Central Valley, average temperatures are 80 degrees Fahrenheit in July and 45 degrees Fahrenheit in January (MSN Encarta, 2006). Precipitation varies from more than 30 inches in a year in the valley's northern part to less than 6 inches at its southern tip (MSN Encarta, 2006). As a result of these fair temperatures, the San Joaquin Valley area has historically been a rich agricultural region, with the capability to nurture a diverse and changing crop pattern over the years. The rich agricultural land is also the result of soil that consists of materials washed down from the surrounding mountains that contains trace elements. The areas of California that are not rich ion agricultural lands consist of dense forests where many species live and thrive.

The Gold Rush of 1849 can be attributed for changing the pattern of growth in California. As a result of the Gold Rush, people flocked to the state in search of becoming rich. Many stayed and made homes there, and in the 1970's the Central Pacific Railroad was extended into the valley. Although the farmers had many conflicts with the railroad, the railroad connected markets and the agricultural industry in California rose exponentially. As a result, during the time between the 19th and 20th centuries, the San Joaquin Valley underwent a significant transformation, from a "sparsely inhabited natural area to a center of large-scale agriculture (Teitz et.al., 2005)." During this period the wetlands and natural waterways were converted to farmlands, and farming was so strongly ties to transportation that in many cases the wheat fields ended where the railroad line ended (Teitz et.al., 2005). Agriculture became the only source of income in the valley, maintained by the railroad that connected towns. In the 1930's the United States Bureau of Reclamation sponsored a project named the Central Valley Project. This project consisted of the building of an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and irrigation canals to supply water to the Central Valley for irrigation and urban use. As a result, fishing and forestry became more important to the people that lived there.

After the Gold Rush, minerals such as petroleum were exploited, and as the population increased, other manufacturing industries sprouted up. The motion-picture, radio, and even television industries added other dimensions to the economy (MSN Encarta, 2006). World War II (1939-1945) increased industrial development, government, educational services and tourism. California suffered a mild recession in the early 1990's, but fully recovered toward the end of the decade. For example, in 1997, California topped all of the other states with farm sales of 23 billion dollars. Several of the state's commodities have annual sales of more than 1 billion dollars, including milk, cream, grapes, vegetables, melon, cattle, poultry, eggs and cotton seed (MSN Encarta, 2006). California produces more variety and more crops than any of the other states, making its farms more productive. California accounts for nearly the entire U.S. production of walnuts, almonds, nectarines, olives, dates, figs and pomegranates (MSN Encarta, 2006). In fact, almost every crop grown in the United States is grown in some part in California.

Conservationists already consider urban encroachment on farmland to be a serious problem around the cities growing in the south. One of California's greatest problems is the lack of an adequate water supply to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population. This is problematic because in the 1940's and 1950's, California's annual fishing catch was larger than any other state. However, this has deceased as a result of the increasing value of Alaska's fish catch. Among the most important commercial fish caught in California are species of halibut, tuna, salmon, mackerel, crab and shrimp (MSN Encarta, 2006). In the drier parts of the state, cattle and sheep are raised, and California leads the nation in egg and milk production as a result. In the parts of California not covered by rich agricultural lands, dense forests also contribute to another economic activity. Lumbering is an important aspect found in the Sierra Nevada and northwestern California, with about two-fifths of the land classified as commercial forest. Mining is also important in California, but not nearly important as its agricultural production. Thus, as this brief historical overview indicates, agriculture is the single most important economic activity that is central to California's San Joaquin Valley's successful existence.

Geographical patterns are key to understanding the manner in which urbanization spreads in an area. Historically the San Joaquin Valley area has grown, but the majority of this growth occurred during the period between the 19th and 20th centuries. However, an examination of the growth pattern reveals that the current population density of the San Joaquin Valley is 5.6 persons per urbanized acre (Teitz et.al., 2005). Additionally, some counties have a population density that is higher than in the agricultural areas; this is said to be a function n of household size rather than more compact development patterns in cities. Population density statistics measure the number of people occupying one acre of urbanized space. In 2000, the California consensus reported 33,871,648 people, which is an increase of 13.8% from the previous decade. This is a 30% increase from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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