Overview: Adapting to Rural Sprawl with Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Growth and development is occurring in the Sacramento Watershed at all levels of density, from city to farm and forest. Smart growth has focused on urban development, with clear urban boundaries to protect agriculture, open space, or forest. However, the Sacramento Watershed is in transition: agricultural grazing lands and forest lands are being subdivided and becoming rural residences. The change is primarily market driven. Small scale grazing, farming and forest management are in decline; suburban and exurban development are in demand and rising. Best management practices are needed for all levels of density. This might be viewed as an adaptation to the transition which is occurring due to megatrends, not necessarily controllable at a local level. Best management practices can inform better choices at any level, whether community or individual.

BMPs for rural residents in low density growth areas have not been a subject of focus in the literature. Low density growth and agricultural land conversion are not considered smart growth; smart growth is in part designed to remedy agricultural land conversion. It was determined that the Rural Residential Development project would compile BMPs for this category of growth in the Sacramento Watershed.

Smart growth as it is being considered for this region is presented as brief overviews in three sections:

These three sections on smart growth are abbreviated and are focused on efforts in the Sacramento Watershed region. The sections are overviews, as many organizations and efforts have evolved for urban/suburban smart growth. References are provided for further inquiry.

BMPs for Rural Residential Development are presented in the fourth section entitled BMPS for Rural Residents. Almost all of these approaches have been developed by others, but are presented here as an integrated compilation, relevant for conditions specific to the Sacramento Watershed.

SRWP is funded to develop an integrated Watershed strategy over the next two years in the Sacramento Watershed Roadmap program. Watershed indicators for rural residential development will be included in the broad watershed indicator approach; low density rural residential strategies will be incorporated as part of an overall strategy for the roadmap to sustainable and healthy ecosystems throughout the watershed. This program is given an overview in SRWP Roadmap: Next Steps.