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Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program

Grants to California Agencies, Tribes, and
Nonprofits for Agricultural Land Conservation

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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California Department of Conservation - Division of Land Resource Protection

LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

08/01/18 11:59 PM


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Grants to California counties, cities, special districts, nonprofits, and tribes to promote the conservation of agricultural land within the state. Pre-proposals are due no later than May 22. Applicants should consult with their local land trust in developing an application.

Program Summary:

The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC Program), a component of the Strategic Growth Council’s (Council’s) Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program, supports the State’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals by making strategic investments to protect agricultural lands from conversion to more GHG-intensive uses. 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.

Auction revenues from the Cap-and-Trade Program are deposited into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), which the Legislature and Governor appropriate to a variety of programs such as the SALC Program and which operate under the umbrella of California Climate Investments. All projects funded by GGRF monies must reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

Request for Grant Applications:

These Round 4 SALC Program Guidelines serve as the basis for this year’s SALC Program Request for Grant Applications (Round 4 RFGA), and cover the following investment types:

1. Agricultural Conservation Easements (Easements) – Grants to protect important agricultural lands under threat of conversion through the acquisition of voluntary, permanent agricultural conservation easements (easements).

2. Agricultural Land Conservation Strategies and Outcomes (Strategies) – Grants to design and implement a local or regional agricultural land conservation strategy that reduces GHG emissions through the long-term protection of agricultural lands under threat of conversion.

Program Goals and Objectives:

The principal goal of the SALC Program is to further the purposes of AB 32 by supporting infill development and avoiding increases in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the conversion of California’s irreplaceable agricultural land and resources to nonagricultural uses, particularly low-density residential development.

The SALC Program’s efforts to protect agricultural lands complement the AHSC Program’s efforts to promote infill development. In this way, AHSC and SALC work together to reduce GHGs in the aggregate over time. The SALC Program also complements California’s existing farmland conservation efforts, including the Williamson Act, the California Farmland Conservancy Program, and the many local and regional agricultural land conservation policies in place throughout California.

These Guidelines prioritize projects that: 1) demonstrate the greatest potential to protect lands most at risk of conversion to residential or urban development, 2) promote agricultural sustainability, 3) support land use planning processes consistent with the goals of AHSC, and 4) provide multiple co-benefits.

GHG Quantification and Reporting:

The SALC Program quantifies and reports the greenhouse gas emission reductions resulting from funded projects in accordance with a California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved quantification methodology and the Funding Guidelines for Administering Agencies. This program measures GHG reductions based on the estimated avoided vehicle miles traveled by protecting agricultural land at risk of conversion and limiting opportunities for expansive, vehicle-dependent forms of development.

In order to be eligible for funding through the SALC Program, each application is required to demonstrate that the agricultural lands within the project’s geographic area are at risk of conversion. For the purposes of this program, only projects that meet the requirements of at least one of nine risk options are considered to be at risk of conversion and will be determined to meet this Eligibility Criterion. See Appendix A for details on the nine risk options.

The risk options categorize the types and land use densities—residential, rural residential, or agricultural—anticipated, should the proposed site be converted to more intense uses based on local conditions. The density type, in conjunction with project size, will be used to quantify the number of development rights that would be extinguished by completing the project, which are then used to calculate the anticipated GHG emissions that would be avoided by completing the project.

These risk options will apply to both Strategy projects and Easement projects. Additional discussion of quantification thresholds, zoning, and current property configurations as they relate to agricultural conservation easements is contained in Appendix A of the Guidelines.

The Department will quantify the number of development rights to be extinguished based on data provided by applicants. Applicants are encouraged to contact the Department should they require assistance in understanding or documenting their project’s risk option.


Pursuant to AB1532, GGRF monies shall be used to facilitate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and, where applicable and to the extent feasible, to maximize environmental and economic benefits for California. Such benefits are known as co-benefits. The Council, in discussion with the Department, has also identified co-benefits associated with agricultural conservation that may be met by SALC projects. Co-benefits associated with SALC Program projects may include, but are not limited to:

Environmental Benefits
-Protection of land of special environmental significance
-Improved air quality resulting from avoided vehicle miles traveled
-Protection of watershed health
-Protection of source water
-Protection of ecosystem services (e.g., wildlife habitat and corridors, pollination, and natural food web adaptation)
-Protection of open space and view sheds
-Potential for additional carbon sequestration via conservation management practices
-Potential for ground water recharge

Economic Benefits
-Retention of local jobs and agricultural revenue
-Retention of entrepreneurial opportunities
-Reduction in spending on municipal services for dispersed development

Additional Benefits
-Contributions to the preservation of food security
-Reductions in food waste
-Promotion of greater understanding of agriculture’s importance among Californians
-Creation of community separators or greenbelts

Statutory Authority:

SB 732 (Chapter 13, Statutes of 2008) established the Council and added California Government Code Sections 75127 and 75128, which direct the Council to manage and award financial assistance to support the planning and development of communities that achieve sustainability objectives. Government Code Section 75126 states that these funded activities must be consistent with the State’s Planning Priorities, and Section 75125 states that the Council shall develop Guidelines for awarding financial assistance, including criteria for eligibility and additional considerations. Approved SALC projects are consistent with State Planning Priority (b).

AB 32 and related amendments identify climate change as a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources, and environment of California and established the GGRF. Under SB 862 (Chapter 36, Statutes of 2014), the Council is apportioned twenty percent (20%) of GGRF auction proceeds on an annual basis. SB 1018, AB 1532, and other statutes require that GGRF monies be used to reduce GHG emissions and further the purposes of AB 32 (Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006, and related amendments).

Public Resources Code Section 75212 lists the types of projects eligible for funding under the AHSC Program. Specifically, Section 75212 (h) authorizes the Council to invest in projects that meet the goals of SB 862 through the “acquisition of easements and other approaches or tools that protect agricultural lands that are under pressure of being converted to nonagricultural uses, particularly those adjacent to areas most at risk of urban and suburban sprawl or those of special environmental significance.” The SALC Program was developed to administer projects eligible for GGRF funds pursuant to Section 75212 (h).

The SALC Program was identified by the Council as most appropriately administered by the California Department of Conservation (Department) in conjunction with the Natural Resources Agency (Agency). The Council approved the roles of the Department and the Agency at its July 10, 2014 meeting. In addition, the SALC Program has been developed in consultation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The Department’s authority for agricultural land protection derives from various sections of statute:
-Public Resources Code Sections 10200-10277, the California Farmland Conservancy Program
-Public Resources Code Sections 10280-10283, Agricultural Protection Planning Grant Program
-Government Code Section 65570, the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program
-Government Code Sections 51190-51294.7, the Williamson Act
-Public Resources Code Division 9, governing Resource Conservation Districts

Priority Population Benefits:

Assembly Bill 1550 (Chapter 369, Statutes of 2016) directs State and local agencies to make significant investments that improve California’s most vulnerable communities. The statute requires that the GGRF investment plan governing all California Climate Investments (CCI) programs allocate funding to benefit residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households5 (priority populations) as follows:

a) A minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of available GGRF monies to projects that are located within and benefit individuals living in disadvantaged communities.

b) A minimum five percent (5%) of available GGRF monies to projects that benefit low- income households or to projects that are located within and benefit individuals living in low-income communities located anywhere in the state; and,

c) A minimum five percent (5%) of available GGRF monies to projects that benefit low- income households located within a 1⁄2 mile of a disadvantaged community or to projects that are located within and provide benefits to individuals living within low-income communities located within a 1⁄2 mile of a disadvantaged community.

SB 862 establishes a target of expending fifty percent (50%) of overall AHSC funds on projects that are located in and benefit disadvantaged communities in order to meet these GGRF goals. Funding allocated by the SALC Program to priority populations is counted toward this AHSC target.

In order to qualify for priority population status under the SALC Program, a proposal must meet all of the following requirements:

1) Fifty percent (50%) or more of the project must be located within:
a. A disadvantaged community census tract, as designated by CalEPA;
b. A low-income community census tract, as defined in HSC 39713; or,
c. A half-mile of a disadvantaged community and within a low-income community census tract;

2) The project must address an important community or household need as outlined in Appendix B of these Guidelines, and,

3) The project must provide direct, meaningful, and assured benefits to a priority population as outlined in Appendix B of the Guidelines.

Applicants interested in being considered for priority population status must complete the Priority Population Benefits Checklist (Appendix B) and provide supporting documentation for their claim in their application. These materials will be evaluated in detail to determine if the benefits provided rise to a level that can be claimed to meet the AB 1550 requirements. Information provided to support a priority population benefits claim will be reviewed by the SALC Program Interagency Team, with final concurrence determined by CARB.

SALC Strategy applicants found to qualify for priority population status will receive five additional points on their application. SALC Easement applicants found to qualify for priority population status will be eligible for zero percent (0%) match, assuming all other Eligibility Criteria can be met. All projects claiming priority population benefits will be evaluated relative to the pool of applications during the round in which they were received.

Priority population status does not affect eligibility.

Eligible costs include the easement purchase price; and the following reasonable costs associated with the acquisition of an easement funded in part by the SALC Program:
-Fully-burdened applicant staff time for: easement negotiations, title work, and project mapping
-Technical and legal consulting
-Preliminary title report
-Baseline conditions report
-Escrow fees
-Title insurance fees
-Environmental site assessment(s)**
-Mineral remoteness evaluation(s)**

Payment of associated costs is subject to Department review and approval and shall not exceed ten percent (10%) of the value of the easement for which the costs were incurred.

*Appraisal cost can be occurred prior to the application; however, only the appraisal approved by DGS and used with the acquisition invoice will be reimbursed.

**Justification of this expense must be provided in the application in order for this cost to be considered for approval.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 152896

Estimated Size of Grant:

Individual Strategy grants are limited to up to $250,000 each. There is no maximum grant amount for Easements.

Term of Contract:

Grant agreements have a maximum duration of two years.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants:

Cities, counties, nonprofit organizations, resource conservation districts, regional park or open-space districts or regional park or open-space authorities that have the conservation of agriculture, rangeland, or farmland either: among their stated purposes, as is prescribed by statute, or as expressed in the entity's adopted policies are eligible to apply for funding. California Native American tribes as identified in Civil Code 815.3 (c) are also eligible applicants.

Nonprofit applicants must have adopted the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Standards and Practices prior to submission of an application. Nonprofit applicants that are otherwise eligible but that have not adopted the LTA’s Standards and Practices must apply with an eligible co-applicant. Government entities are exempt from this requirement but will be expected to provide evidence of their technical and fiscal capacity to complete and steward their project upon request.

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).

Ineligible Costs:
-Indirect overhead costs
-Strategy grant costs
-Ceremonial expenses (including food and beverages)
-Expenses for publicity
-Bonus payments of any kind
-Interest expenses
-Damage judgments arising from the acquisition, construction, or equipping of a facility, whether determined by judicial process, arbitration, negotiation, or otherwise.
-Services, materials, or equipment obtained under any other State program.
-Real estate brokerage fees and/or expenses.
-Stewardship or legal defense funds

Pre-Application Information:

The SALC Program will award an amount equal to 10 percent of the auction proceeds available from the 20 percent continuously appropriated to the Strategic Growth Council for the AHSC Program from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The actual funding level will not be determined until after the fourth auction for fiscal year 2017-18. Additional funding for SALC projects may be available from funds not utilized in previous rounds.

For Round 4, up to $1 million will be allocated for Strategy grants. Funds not awarded under one component may be used to increase available funding for award in the other component.

The grantee will be required to cover a minimum twenty-five percent (25%) of the fair market value of the easement acquisition, either through landowner donation or other match funding sources.

No match is required for easements that qualify for priority population benefits status.

Applicants should identify all existing or potential match funders in their applications. Committed match must be confirmed within nine months of Council approval.

Landowners interested in placing an agricultural conservation easement on their property should contact a land trust in their area to begin the application process. Visit California Council of Land Trusts to find a land trust near you:

Department grant managers will utilize pre-proposal information to assist the applicant in determining whether the project meets the threshold for quantification of GHG benefits; identifying what, if any additional information will be needed in the full application; and ascertaining whether the project has title complexities or other issues that should be addressed prior to submitting a full application.

Pre-proposals and applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 PM on the the specified deadlines.

-Draft Guidelines released for comment—February 23, 2018
-Guidelines adopted—April 20, 2018 (proposed, subject to change) Determination of funding amount available from Cap and Trade Auction proceeds—May 2018
-Pre-proposal summaries due—May 22, 2018
-Full Applications due—August 1, 2018
-Anticipated approval of projects by the Strategic Growth Council— December 4, 2018 (proposed, subject to change)

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Virginia Jameson, SALC Program Manager
(916) 324-0868

SALC Program Team
(916) 324-0850

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: California