SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to strengthen protections for Coyote Valley’s natural and working lands.

According to the county, farmland in the county has declined by 45% over the last 20 years.

The amendments to the County’s General Plan, zoning ordinance, and zoning map will aim to protect important resources in Mid- and South Coyote Valley to safeguard local food production and climate benefits.

“The incredible collaboration between the city and county to change land use plans in favor of protecting versus paving is unprecedented,” said Andrea Mackenzie, General Manager of the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (the Authority).

“These coordinated efforts are a model for advancing climate goals statewide, including Governor Newsom’s “30×30″ Executive Order that calls for protection of 30% of the state’s land and waters by 2030,” added Mackenzie.

The move will also provide financial incentives to protect agricultural lands and natural resources through conservation easements and other mechanisms.

“I commit to working with our environmental partners to fairly compensate landowners for their land, then protecting that land with a permanent conservation easement, and selling that land to farmers with fewer resources,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

“This is a win/win as it will allow small farmers, who are often farmers of color, to purchase land at an affordable rate.”

Over 1,400 acres of natural and working farmlands will now be protected for conservation across the Valley floor — creating a vital wildlife linkage that connects over one million acres of habitat in the Diablo Range and Santa Cruz Mountains. 

The county says this linkage allows species to disperse, migrate, and shift ranges in response to climate change.

Leading the efforts to conserve the valley — Assemblymember Ash Kalra authored Assembly Bill-948 in 2019, which identified Coyote Valley as a landscape of statewide significance.

He also led efforts to secure additional state funding for Coyote Valley as part of the 2021-22 State Budget.

“I am heartened that Santa Clara County has joined the City of San José in voting to preserve one of the Bay Area’s few remaining open spaces at risk of development,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra.

“By offering a wide variety of public safety and environmental resilience benefits, Coyote Valley serves a critical role in fighting climate change, maintaining wildlife habitats, and protecting groundwater.”

The county’s decision also aligns with recent actions by the San José City Council that prioritize Coyote Valley for agriculture, open space, and natural resources protection over sprawl development. 

These actions are happening in step with the ongoing purchase of key properties for conservation by the Authority, Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), and the City of San Jose.

“I applaud the County Board of Supervisors for their actions to protect Coyote Valley’s natural infrastructure, and the irreplaceable benefits these lands provide for local communities,” said Walter Moore, President of POST.

“The bold leadership of these local policymakers is advancing innovative, nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis right here in Coyote Valley.”

In addition, the Authority plans to continue working with conservation groups, farmers, the County, and the City of San José to protect local food production, water resources, and the multiple benefits provided by the natural and working lands in Coyote Valley.

The Authority is also participating in the implementation of the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan, which aims to protect agricultural lands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.