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. Administered by the Department of Conservation, 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 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.

Program Summary

Year Launched: 2015
Grants awarded to date: $373 million
Acres preserved: Over 194,000
Total easements: 166
Planning grants: 30
Greenhouse gas reductions (over 30 years): over 20.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Status of grant rounds: Nine rounds completed.

Find additional resources, including a CalCAN fact sheet on the program and more information from the California Department of Conservation.

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program History

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. 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.  

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