Land Conservation- Williamson Act

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Land Conservation- Williamson Act

The California Land Conservation Act, better known as the Williamson Act, has been the state’s premier agricultural land protection program since its enactment in 1965. Nearly 16 million of the state’s 30 million acres of farm and ranch land are currently protected under the Williamson Act.

The California Legislature passed the Williamson Act in 1965 to preserve agricultural and open space lands by discouraging premature and unnecessary conversion to urban uses. The Act creates an arrangement whereby private landowners contract with counties and cities to voluntarily restrict land to agricultural and open-space uses. The vehicle for these agreements is a rolling term 10 year contract (i.e. unless either party files a “notice of non-renewal” the contract is automatically renewed annually for an additional year). In return, restricted parcels are assessed for property tax purposes at a rate consistent with their actual use, rather than potential market value.

Benefitsthe Williamson Act contract offer to landowners

The Williamson Act is estimated to save agricultural landowners from 20 percent to 75 percent in property tax liability each year. One in three Williamson Act farmers and ranchers said in a survey that without the Act they would no longer own their parcel (Source: Land in the Balance, University of California: December 1989).


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