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Farm & Ranch Stewardship

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California farmers and ranchers are vested in the stewardship of the natural resources on their lands because their sustainability is integral to the vitality of the farm and ranch. The references below will assist local agricultural producers in their efforts to conserve resources and implement best management practices to improve water quality, protect against soil erosion, and manage streams, forestlands, pests and nutrients on their properties in an environmentally- and user-friendly manner.

Water Quality Management

There are several measures that agricultural producers can take to assess and improve water quality. The following UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) publications are helpful for understanding water quality and evaluating the impacts of individual agricultural operations:

The following ANR publications include useful information for agricultural producers looking to implement water quality protection practices:

In addition, the USEPA's National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Agriculture outlines the best available, economically achievable means of reducing pollution of surface and groundwater from agriculture.

The following ANR publications discuss methods of monitoring water quality and documenting measures implemented to reduce nonpoint source pollution:

The following programs and organizations are available to assist landowners with water quality education, assessment and BMP implementation:


Conservation-Based Management

Riparian Corridor Management

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Vegetation buffers along streams reduce soil erosion, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality by reducing the amount of sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, pathogens, and other potential contaminants from runoff entering the stream, lower water temperatures, reduce flooding and help to conserve biodiversity. The following ANR publications offer information on managing riparian corridors to allow farmers to increase the environmental and economic sustainability of their operations:

See NRCS' information on vegetation buffers and our Stream & Upslope Restoration page for more information on maintaining and improving riparian areas.

Forest Stewardship

ANR's Forest Stewardship Series gives California forestland owners comprehensive information on the management and enjoyment of their lands. It is a good introduction to the lifelong study of forest stewardship that is part of owning forest property.

Road Construction & Maintenance

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Sediment eroded from roads is detrimental to fish and other aquatic species. The following guides outline how to plan, design, construct or reconstruct, maintain and close wildland roads in a manner that minimizes impacts to freshwater ecosystems and reduces maintenance costs for landowners:

Pest Management

The following sources of information may be helpful to farmers weighing management decisions in regards to pesticide use and alternative pest management:

  • UC's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) site contains valuable information on pesticides, including effects on water quality and pesticide safety and training. See our IPM page for information on pests specific to Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.
  • UCCE Riverside's PesticideWise searches through a comprehensive EPA-USDA database and presents critical information on a specific pesticide's properties and water quality risks. 
  • AFSIC's Ecological Pest Management page contains information on complementary methods to control pests that minimize or eliminate the use of toxic pesticides.
  • The USGS Pesticides in Groundwater page summarizes the problem of groundwater contamination by chemicals.

Residual Dry Matter Management for Ranchers

Residual dry matter (RDM), the amount of herbaceous plant material left standing or on the ground at the beginning of a new growing season, is a standard used for assessing the level of grazing use on annual grasslands and associated ecosystems. The following publications were developed to help land managers effectively manage RDM levels of California annual grassland range-types:

Horse Keeping & Manure Management

The Council of Bay Area Resource Conservation District Equine Facilities Assistance Program offers several useful publications that outline best management practices for clean water, manure management, invasive plant control and more for horse owners. Their horse keeping fact sheets are posted on this UC Davis' California Rangelands Program webpage.

Soil Survey Information

Environmental Regulations Pertaining to Agriculture

The USEPA has a new website that contains an easy and succinct look-up tool listing Federal Environmental Regulations with Potential Impacts on Agriculture. Knowing the regulations beforehand will allow farmers to address these issues before they become problems. This website aims to improve communication, collaboration and innovation between the agricultural community and federal regulators to build a more environmentally productive relationship.

Agricultural Funding Resources