At its December 15th meeting last week the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) approved over $74 million across 48 awards under the Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation (SALC) program, the largest amount of funding provided in a single year since the program began. These grants support the state’s ongoing efforts to conserve and protect agricultural land at the urban and suburban edge that is at risk of being converted to sprawl development. Administered by the Department of Conservation and overseen by the SGC, the SALC program simultaneously protects farmlands and biodiversity while promoting sustainable in-fill development patterns.
This is the 8th round of awards since the SALC program started in 2015 and this year’s SALC awards fall into three categories:
- Easements and acquisition
- Capacity building
A total of 25 awards totaling over $68 million were made for SALC easement acquisition projects that will protect over 54,000 acres of agricultural land across 17 counties. Collectively, these conservation easements will prevent an estimated 619,227 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions over the next 30 years. According to the Strategic Growth Council, the avoided emissions from protecting this land from development is equal “to taking 133,424 cars off the road for one year.”
In addition to the 25 agricultural easement awards, three planning awards were approved at last week’s meeting for a total of $1.5 million. SALC planning grants provide funding to advance local and regional land use policies, agricultural land protection efforts, and economic development strategies. One of these planning awards went to the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the first California Native American Tribe to receive funding under SALC. The grant will support planning to allow the Tribe to implement Sustainable Community Strategies and protect agricultural lands.
A Tribal nonprofit, California Open Lands, was also one of the recipients of a new category of SALC grant: capacity building. Capacity building grants provide support for organizations seeking to develop future agricultural acquisition projects under the SALC program or similar projects funded by other sources. The SGC approved 20 SALC capacity building awards to organizations across 33 different counties. While $3 million was initially earmarked for capacity building grants, the program saw higher than expected demand and the council approved an increase to fund a total of $4.4 million in awards.
Photo Credit: CA Department of Conservation