Rural-Urban Connections Strategy
In 2008, SACOG shifted the planning paradigm to more explicitly include rural areas. Responding to criticism that SACOG’s land use and transportation planning lacked adequate attention to and information about rural parts of the region, the Rural-Urban Connections Strategy project (RUCS) was launched.
Through cutting-edge technical work and stakeholder engagement, RUCS has brought on par the region’s understanding of both urban and rural challenges and opportunities and how policies and strategies impact both parts of the region. The region’s prosperity and sustainability are now being viewed from both an urban and rural perspective with a notable increase in attention to agriculture and food industries, in particular, but rural issues generally.
Much like urban areas, rural economic vitality is fundamentally derived from land use decisions; however, detailed planning for agriculture is typically unavailable. RUCS seeks not only to support the main land use and economic activity, agriculture, but also to conserve open lands and the ecosystem services they provide. RUCS is built upon the premise that resource conservation is greatly bolstered by strategies that leverage and enhance the value of these assets. Increased revenues can change the perception of open lands from being “undeveloped” or “future urban” to assets that produce income and should therefore remain open.
Given that the Sacramento region is 85 percent rural, this change in perspective about rural land is also changing the view of what constitutes a “region” and how to plan for its future, particularly how SACOG approaches its primary responsibility to build a Metropolitan Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy. Healthy rural economies provide a counterbalance, but also complement urban development and economic strategies. This helps bind the region around linked goals and objectives such as smart growth, resource conservation, enhancement of agriculture and food industries, food access and healthy eating, and recreation. These objectives are being sought by a growing collaboration of stakeholders to distinguish the region as providing high quality of life, progressive policies and strategies, and new economic opportunity for both urban and rural areas.