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The Land Conservation Act

The California Land Conservation Act of 1965--commonly referred to as the Williamson Act--enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use. In return, landowners receive property tax assessments which are much lower than normal because they are based upon farming and open space uses as opposed to full market value. The Open Space Subvention Act of 1971 provided local governments an annual subvention of forgone property tax revenues from the state through the year 2009; these payment have been suspended in more recent years due to revenue shortfalls.

New and Frequently Requested Information

2014 Land Conservation Act Status Report - NEW

The 2014 Land Conservation Act Status Report is now available.   The report provides information to the Legislature and general public on the implementation of the Act by counties and cities.  Data is collected through the yearly LCA and Open Space Subvention Act Survey.  Please see the Enrollment Statistics page for more information.

Open Space Subventions - 2015 Survey of Participation - Coming in August

The FY 2015 Survey of Participation in the Land Conservation Act will be available beginning in August.  Entities who have not yet submitted the 2014 survey can still do so.  Please see the Open Space Subvention Payments page for more information.

Even though the elimination of OSS payments has occurred in recent years, this information is critical in documenting the level of participation in the program and the impact of the loss of OSS payments on local governments.  It is the basis for the biennial Land Conservation Act (LCA) Status Report, which provides information to the Legislature and general public on the status of the Act among counties and cities.

Despite the loss of OSS payments, participating jurisdictions may re-capture 10 percent of the property tax benefits that are provided to owners of LCA.  This option was provided under legislation approved in 2011 (AB 1265, Statutes of 2011).  Background on the legislation is available in this updated Advisory Statement (PDF).

Solar-Use Easements - Rescission Fees - Effective January 1, 2015

Beginning January 1, 2015, Assembly Bill 2241 will take effect. The bill establishes a new distribution formula for rescission fees assessed on solar-use easements, until January 1, 2020.  The rescission fee for removal of the contract and reentry into a solar-use easement will be 10% of the fair market value of the property for land under a Williamson Act contract or Farmland Security Zone.  The bill also requires that only 50% of the rescission fees collected are to be deposited in the State General Fund.  Please see the Legislative Amendments page for the text of the bill or contract us for more information.

Solar-Use Easements - Senate Bill 618 Official Regulations - Effective February 1, 2014

Department Regulations are now in place outlining the procedures, fees, standards, and criteria for solar-use easements.  The regulations (within Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations) clarify SB 618 language and the Department of Conservation’s role in implementing the solar-use easement statute.  Through these procedures, solar-use easement agreements may be approved between cities or counties and agricultural landowners that are parties to Land Conservation and Farmland Security Zone Act contracts, as provided in SB 618.  Please see the Solar-Use Easements page for more information.  

Guidance for Cancellation of Land Conservation Act Contracts

The Department has compiled a general cancellation outline and a Cancellation Petition Advice Paper to assist the public in understanding what is involved in the process of cancelling a contract and what materials might be necessary.  Please see the  Contract Cancellations page for further information.  

Guidance for the Public Acquisition of Land Conservation Act Land

When there is a need for a public agency or other eligible entity to acquire land enrolled in a LCA contract, or located in an agricultural preserve, the Department of Conservation must be notified as set forth in Government Codes §51290 through §51295 and §51296. 

The Department has created a number of example documents that may be useful if you are compiling a public acquisition notice.  Please see the Public Acquisitions page for further information.

Working with the LESA Model

The Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) Model evaluates agricultural characteristics of specific sites, as indicated in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines.

Legislation and Policy

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