After a Highly Competitive Application Round, DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection Staff Make Award Recommendations
December 18, 2020
SACRAMENTO – With the goals of conserving productive agricultural land, boosting local land-use planning, contributing to infill development, and reducing carbon emissions, the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) today approved more than $52 million in state grants to fund the acquisition of land and easements for agricultural conservation as well as to support the ability of local governments to develop regional agricultural land conservation strategies.
The sixth annual round of funding from SGC's Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) will help create 20 agricultural easements and allow for the outright purchase of two parcels with money provided by the State of California's cap-and-trade auctions. View a list of awarded projects. The SALC program advances California's pursuit of nature-based solutions to climate change, emphasized by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this year in Executive Order N-82-20.
“California is fully committed to advancing bold, integrated strategies to fight catastrophic climate change – and conserving our agricultural lands is a big part of that fight," said SGC Chair, Kate Gordon, the Governor's Senior Advisor on Climate and Director of the Office of Planning and Research. “We're so proud to support these SALC awardees. Their projects ensure that nearly 20,000 acres of beautiful lands continue to produce food for Californians and the world, while keeping our communities resilient in the face of current climate impacts."
The land acquisition projects comprise approximately 16,853 acres in 19 counties and include both the outright purchase of properties, as well as the purchase of conservation easements. Conservation easements allow landowners to retain control of the property and continue farming and ranching while voluntarily giving up the right to ever develop the land. Funded projects include irrigated farmland, rangeland, and mixed-use agriculture that will ultimately help limit sprawl and prevent the release of an estimated 4,661,913 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The two land purchases (fee-title projects) are a new eligible project type through the SALC program. The properties are located on the central coast (San Benito and Monterey counties) and in the Santa Clara Valley, comprising 2,825 acres.
“We are thrilled to see so many high-quality projects from across California – from Shasta County in the north to Imperial County in the South," said Louise Bedsworth, California Strategic Growth Council Executive Director. “We congratulate and thank the awardees and landowners whose commitment to conserving these lands will prevent greenhouse gas emissions and support the state's farmers and ranchers."
The Council also approved 10 planning grant applications that span the state from San Diego to the Sacramento Valley and range from $175,000 to $250,000. These grants help local and regional agencies develop strategies and prioritize areas for the conservation of working lands, ensuring locally sourced food supplies and aiding local climate strategies.
“The investment in SALC provides important recognition of the value of working lands and the ongoing development of climate-smart agriculture in California," said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “This latest round of grant funding is an important step that adds to the suite of excellent programs we have in place to support our farmers and ranchers as they provide sustainable solutions in adapting to climate change."
Staff from the Department of Conservation's (DOC) Division of Land Resource Protection review SALC grant applications and make award recommendations to SGC. DOC received 51 applications for easement funding and two for land purchases. “We've never had a more competitive round of applications," DOC Director David Shabazian noted.
Projects are selected based on the potential for property to be converted to other uses, their potential to promote infill development, as well as their agricultural, economic, and ecological values.
"We're proud of our role in the SALC program and congratulate all the grant recipients on their successful applications," Shabazian said. "We're especially pleased that all 10 applicants for planning grants were successful. Long-term planning is vital to meeting the state's goals for the protection and management of agricultural lands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We're glad to see how our assistance to local officials has resulted in a large increase in successful planning proposals."
A total of $72M were available for SALC's sixth round, including $34M carried over from previous rounds (due to projects withdrawing or coming in under budget), and $38M from Fiscal Year 2019-2020 cap-and-trade auction proceeds. SGC will carry over about $20.2 million from California Climate Investments (CCI) funds into the next round of SALC funding – a prudent reserve given the economic uncertainties associated with COVID-19 and the importance of the SALC program to pursuing the goals of EO-N-82-20 on preserving natural and working lands.
These awards bring the total awards made through the SALC program to approximately $232.9 million, supporting 123 easement projects, two fee-title acquisitions, 24 planning grants, and technical assistance for three local governments.
SALC Program funding is part of a much larger effort by the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To date, SGC has awarded nearly $2 billion in CCI funding through its competitive grant programs to facilitate that goal. The funds support projects that reduce emissions by supporting more compact infill development patterns as well as encouraging active transportation and transit usage – especially in disadvantaged and under-served communities.
DOC Public Affairs Office