In 2015, California launched a trailblazing Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP), the first program in the country that invests in farmland conservation for its climate benefits. CalCAN and a coalition of land trusts and conservation organizations advocated for its creation. It is administered by the Department of Conservation.
SALCP focuses on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the conversion of agricultural lands to urban, suburban and rural ranchette development. The program was created following a study by Louise Jackson, Stephen Wheeler and others at UC Davis that found that an acre of urban land in Yolo County emitted 70 times more GHG emissions compared to an acre of irrigated cropland. The climate benefits of farmland, including its ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon, are lost when the land is converted to urban or other non-agricultural uses.
SALCP is part of a larger Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, coordinated by the Strategic Growth Council. AHSC receives 20 percent as a continuous appropriation of the total annual Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) budget. The program funds permanent agricultural easements on agricultural lands at risk of development and funds local governments to improve farmland conservation policy and program development.
SALCP was initially funded with $5 million in GGRF. But CalCAN and a coalition of land trust, agriculture and conservation organizations were able to successfully advocate for increased funding to improve the program’s reach and impact. SALCP now receives 10 percent of the AHSC funding allocation.
Year launched: 2015
Budget for FY 2018-19: 10 percent of the Affordable Housing & Sustainable Communities climate investment funding allocation
Grants awarded to date: Over $180 million
Acres preserved: over 110,000
Total easements: 100
Strategy and Outcome grants: 14
Greenhouse gas reductions (over 30 years): updated number available in March 2020 (the quantification methodology for the program has been recently revised).
Status of grant rounds: Five rounds completed.
Find additional resources, including a CalCAN fact sheet on the program and more information from the California Department of Conservation.