Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program - Agricultural Conservation Easements

California Department of Conservation

Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Next anticipated deadline: May 22, 2019 11:59pm PDT (Pre proposal)

Later anticipated deadlines: Aug 1, 2019 11:59pm PDT (Full proposal)

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit

Funding uses: Applied Project / Program

Location of project: California

Location of residency: California

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The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC Program) supports the State’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals by making strategic investments to protect agricultural lands from conversion to land uses with more GHG-intensive purposes. Protecting critical agricultural lands from conversion to urban or rural residential development promotes smart growth within existing jurisdictions, ensures open space remains available, and supports a healthy agricultural economy and resulting food security. A healthy and resilient agricultural sector is becoming increasingly important in meeting the challenges occurring and anticipated as a result of climate change.

 Agricultural Conservation Easements

  • Grants to protect important agricultural lands under threat of conversion via permanent agricultural conservation easements (ACE or easements).

For the purposes of this program, agricultural land will include both cultivated and non-cultivated (e.g., rangeland and pasture) lands. 

Under the 2013 Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan14, the purchase of agricultural conservation easements (ACEs or easements) on strategic agricultural lands was designated as one way to ensure sustainable communities by strengthening the land use planning process and supporting agricultural viability.

The motivation to improve agricultural practices in concert with AB 32 goals—including energy, water, and farm nutrient investments—may be more attractive to landowners with the security and financial assistance that permanent conservation easements convey. Preventing subdivision and sprawl conversion of agricultural land may reduce vehicle miles traveled and related greenhouse gas emissions.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Per California Public Resources Code Section §10212, applicants may include:
    • cities, counties, nonprofit organizations, RCDs, regional park or open-space districts or regional park or open-space authorities that have the conservation of farmland among their stated purposes, as prescribed by statute, or as expressed in the entity's locally adopted policies. 
      • Nonprofit organizations must hold a tax exemption as defined under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code and further qualify under Internal Revenue Code Sections 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) or 170(h)(3), as provided by PRC Section §10221.
  • Eligible Projects: 
    • Applications for ACEs on cultivated and non-cultivated land (including rangeland and pasture) will be considered for funding under this program. 
    • Threshold Criteria:
      • In order to be eligible for funds under the SALC Program, agricultural lands within the proposed ACE must be considered at risk of conversion for purposes of the ARB 2016-17 Quantification Methodology. 
      • Applicants must demonstrate that agricultural lands are at risk of conversion using one of the options listed listed here
    • Once meeting threshold criteria, agricultural conservation easement applications are eligible to be considered for grant funding if the following criteria are met (PRC §10251):
      • The parcel proposed for conservation is expected to continue to be used for, and is large enough to sustain, commercial agricultural production.
        • The land is also in an area that possesses the necessary market, infrastructure, and agricultural support services, and the surrounding parcel sizes and land uses will support long-term commercial agricultural production.
      • The applicable city or county has a general plan that demonstrates a long-term commitment to agricultural land conservation.
        • This commitment shall be reflected in the goals, objectives, policies, and implementation measures of the plan as they relate to the project geographic area within the county or city where the easement acquisition is proposed.
      • The grant proposal is consistent with the city or county general plan, and the governing body of the city or county, by resolution, approves the grant proposal.
        • (Properties within a city’s Sphere of Influence must acquire resolutions of approval from both the county and city).
    • See full ACE eligibility criteria here.
  • In order to leverage the funding available, the SALC Program will require match funding toward the direct easement acquisition cost.
    • The SALC Program may contribute up to seventy-five percent (75%) of the fair market value of ACEs that do not provide a disadvantaged community benefit.
    • The SALC Program may contribute up to ninety percent (90%) of the fair market value of ACEs that result in direct, meaningful, and assured benefits to a disadvantaged community.


  • Match funding from additional partners greatly contributes to the overall strength of an easement proposal. 


  • Projects are considered ineligible if they fail to meet any of the eligibility criteria described above, or if any of the following apply:
    • The local government applicant has acquired, or proposes to acquire, the proposed ACE through the use of eminent domain, unless requested by the owner of the land (PRC §10232).
    • The proposed ACE would restrict agricultural husbandry practices (as defined in PRC §10218) on the land (PRC §10238). In instances where the ACE project was selected and received match funding based on its non-cultivated status, the land must continue to be primarily agricultural in nature, and the ACE may not substantially prevent agricultural uses (e.g., livestock grazing) on the property.
    • The applicant or seller of the ACE do not agree to restrict the use of the land in perpetuity (Civil Code §815.2(b)).
    • The proposed ACE is part of a local government’s condition placed upon the issuance of an entitlement for use of a specific property (PRC §10243).
    • Clear title to the proposed ACE cannot be conveyed (PRC §10264(b)).
    • Once entered into a Grant Agreement, the easement acquisition cannot be completed within a two-year timeframe. The two-year timeframe reflects State Contracting Manual requirements.
    • The purchase price of the proposed ACE exceeds the appraised fair market value (PRC §10260(a)).
    • The ACE appraisal is determined to be unacceptable (PRC §10260). Please see the section on appraisals here.