With species and habitats unique to the region, large open spaces, and productive farms and ranchlands, the natural resources in Santa Clara County have long made the region desirable for both residents and visitors. The open spaces and wildlands in the County contribute to residents’ quality of life by providing clean air, fresh water, natural flood protection, removal of atmospheric carbon and diverse opportunities for recreation. As the County’s population continues to grow and the impacts of climate change become reality, careful planning, new conservation methods, and innovative tools are required to maintain the delicate balance between development and open space to protect our precious natural resources.

The County of Santa Clara will continue to support the preservation of open spaces, agricultural lands, and natural habitats in both urban areas and the unincorporated parts of the County. It will also partner with the public and private sector to increase the use of practices that maximize possible co-benefits for climate change mitigation and adaptation, such as carbon sequestration and stormwater management.

How will we get there?

Habitat conservation helps to preserve and enhance the County’s biodiversity while also providing the community with opportunities to experience and enjoy nature. Habitats that are preserved also often need to be restored to be able to function as healthy ecosystems. Furthermore, habitat preservation and restoration both provide opportunities to increase carbon sequestration (see Strategy 1.6).

Preserving habitats, landscapes, and species is essential for ecosystem health and our community's quality of life. The County of Santa Clara will continue to collaborate with member cities and regional agencies that help to maintain and manage regional open space, as well as to expand the tree canopy, urban forests, and amount of protected open space throughout the County.

Strategy 4.1 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan Actions

  • Invasive Species Program

  • Weed Abatement Program

  • Mosquito Control and Stinging Insects Program

  • California Naturalist and Wildlife Programs

  • County Parks Forest Health program

  • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District programs

  • Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority programs

Parks provide County residents and visitors with the opportunity to experience nature and discover an appreciation for the unique landscapes that define Santa Clara County. Experiencing nature is also one way to increase the public’s appreciation for it, and in turn increases support for preservation and restoration work. Furthermore, convenient access to green space provides health and wellness benefits that can be physical, psychological, and spiritual in nature.

The County of Santa Clara will continue to improve access to regional parks, public spaces, and trails for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes. It will work with cities to connect regional and local trails and open spaces, thus increasing access to open space and providing connected habitats for protected species and other wildlife.

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Countywide Trails Master Plan implementation

  • Santa Clara County Parks Strategic Plan implementation

  • Outdoor recreation programs

  • Parks Department's land acquisition

  • Santa Clara County Park Prescription Program between Parks, Public Health, Open Space, and Pediatric Health

Strategy 4.3 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Strategy 4.3 - Parks and Recreation

Improve accessibility of parks and public spaces (including county trails) with a focus on residents of all ages, abilities, and incomes, and those living throughout the County.

Agriculture is a culturally significant and historic part of life in Santa Clara County. Preserving working lands in the County supports the local economy by creating jobs and also strengthens the County’s overall resilience to climate change and other hazards. When farmers embrace sustainable practices, they improve soil health, use water more efficiently, and sequester carbon. Furthermore, local agriculture is an important asset for the community to increase residents’ access to fresh and healthy foods, foster a sense of community through events like farmers’ markets, and provide a buffer to shocks to the national food system.

The County of Santa Clara will build upon existing programs that support local farms and rangelands by recognizing the value of sustainable farming practices and promoting practices that contribute to the County’s sustainability goals, including carbon neutrality and zero waste. Furthermore, the County will collaborate with public and private sector partners to prevent the loss and disuse of agricultural lands.

Strategy 4.2 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan

  • LAFCO Agricultural Mitigation Policy, Urban Service Area (USA) Policies, and Sphere of Influence (SOI) Policies

  • Williamson Act and Open Space Easement Program

  • Small Farm Program

  • Grazing Program

  • Insect Identification and Management

  • Certified Farmers' Market

  • Specialty Inspection Protection Programs (Sudden Oak Death, Light Brown Apple Moth, Glassy-winged Sharpshooter)

  • Livestock & Natural Resources Program

  • Surface Mining and Reclamation Program

Unincorporated County Target:

  • Preserve at least 12,000 acres of agricultural lands most vulnerable to development (aligns with Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan and Agricultural Conservation Easement program).

Implement a comprehensive regional framework in order to preserve the remaining

working lands and support a vibrant agricultural economy while mitigating climate change.

Strategy 4.2 - Working Lands

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Enhance and protect natural and working lands so that they provide a range of social, environmental, economic, and health benefits for County residents and businesses.

Goal #4. Natural Lands and Land Use