California Conservation Programs

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Federal data is complete from 1998-2017. State and local data is complete from 1998-2008. In the tables and charts below, acres are allocated to each program proportionate to the size of the contributions to each acquisition. For example, if an acquisition had two contributions, and each program contributed equal dollar amounts, each program receives 50% of the acres. If you have questions or want to provide updated information, please contact Jessica Welch at

Profile of State Program(s)

California State Bonds: The State of California has passed a series of bond measures to fund land conservation initiatives dating back to 1964. Conservation activity represented here includes projects using funds from the following bond measures – Parklands Fund (1984), Proposition 70 (1988), Proposition 117 (1990), Proposition 204 (1996), Proposition 12 (2000), Proposition 13 (2000), Proposition 40 (2002), Proposition 50 (2002), Proposition 84 (2006), and Proposition 68 (2018).

Revenue from these funds are used in the following ways:

California Resources Agency: The Resources Agency oversees a wide variety of departments, boards, and commissions and is the lead agency for Propositions 12, 40 and 50 programs. Individual departments manage most of the programs, and the Resources Agency manages a few-namely, the acquisition, restoration, protection and development of river parkways and the provision of grants to local public agencies and nonprofit entities for the acquisition of land and water resources to protect water quality in the Sierra Nevada-Cascade Mountain Region. The Resources Agency received funding from Propositions 12 ($45.9M), 13 ($36.5M), 40 ($75M) and 50 ($130M) for these purposes. The resources agency funds projects completed through the San Diego River Conservancy, which is the first in the San Diego River area to manage the public lands along the river. It was created in 2002 and has received $12 million from Propositions 13 and 40. The Department of Water Resources, CalFire, and the Water Resources Control Board are all funded through the Resources Agency.

California State Conservancies: In order to acquire and conserve undeveloped lands through outright purchase and via conservation easement, the California Legislature has created a number of conservancies that function as independent state agencies. The conservancies receive substantial funding from Proposition 12, with additional funding from Propositions 13 and 40. Many of these agencies work in partnership with nonprofit organizations and local governments to promote the conservation of land and water resources in specific regions of the state, and several of these conservancies are regional in scope such that they are better able to coordinate local interests.

  • Baldwin Hills Conservancy acquires land through local assistance grants upon the condition a grantee assumes fee title and management responsibility in a manner consistent with the conservancy’s mission to provide recreation, restoration and protection of wildlife habitat within for the public’s enjoyment and educational experience. The Baldwin Hills Conservancy focuses on areas located to the southwest of downtown Los Angeles. The conservancy was created in 2000 and was allocated $40 million from Proposition 40.
  • California Tahoe Conservancy jurisdiction extends only to the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin and was created in 1984. It received funding from Propositions 12 ($50M), 40 ($40M), and 50 ($40M).
  • California Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy protects the mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley and natural community conservation lands within the valley, from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea. The conservancy was created in 1990 and received funding from Propositions 12 ($5M) and 40 ($20M).
  • San Gabriel & Lower Los Angeles Rivers & Mountains Conservancy seeks to preserve urban open space and habitat in eastern Los Angeles County and western Orange County. It was created in 1999 and received funding from Propositions 40 ($40M) and 50 ($20M). The Conservancy disburses grants from Proposition 40 to qualified projects that conform to the conservancy’s watershed and open space plan.
  • Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy conserves acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings, with the ultimate goal of forming a system of urban, rural and river parks, open space, trails, and wildlife habitats accessible to the public in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. It was created in 1980 and received funding from Propositions 12 ($35M), 13 ($5M), 40 ($40M) and 50 ($40).
  • Sierra Nevada Conservancy is comprised of 25 million acres that encompass 22 counties, 20 incorporated cities, 40 special districts, and 212 communities. It was created in 2004 and is administered by the State Resources Agency. Funding is provided through legislative appropriations. No acquisitions have been made to date.
  • State Coastal Conservancy was created in 1976 and works in partnership with local governments, other public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners. It also distributes grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations for projects that meet the natural resource and recreation goals of the San Francisco Bay area. The conservancy is funded primarily by state general obligation bonds (and received funding from Propositions 12 ($250.4M), 13 ($21.5M), 40 ($240M), 50 ($140M) and from the state’s general fund.

California Department of Parks and Recreation: The Department of Parks and Recreation received funding from Propositions 12 ($1.364B), 13 ($1.5M), and 40 ($1.058B) for land conservation purposes.

Wildlife Conservation Board: Created in 1974, the Wildlife Conservation Board acquires wildlife habitat, which are ultimately managed by the Department of Fish and Game. The Board received $1.5 billion from Propositions 12, 40 and 50 and $14 million from Proposition 13. Most of the allocated funds from Propositions 12 and 40 go toward the preservation of habitat for rare and endangered species, wetlands, redwoods, oak woodlands, and the Salton Sea. Proposition 50 monies received by the Wildlife Conservation Board fund the acquisition, protection, and restoration of coastal wetlands, protection of regional water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and improvement of regional water supply reliability. The Wildlife Conservation Board also funds projects completed through the San Joaquin River Conservancy, which acquires and conserves the lands around the San Joaquin River in Madera and Fresno counties. It was created in 1988. Finally, Proposition 13 funds will be disbursed as grants to local agencies and nonprofit organizations for wildlife land and easement acquisitions around rivers. The Wildlife Conservation Board runs several programs with land acquisition components, including:

  • Land Acquisition Program (through which land is acquired on behalf of the Department of Fish and Game and grants are distributed to governmental entities and nonprofit organizations);
  • The Public Access Program (which funds projects to provide access to wildlife including acquisitions);
  • The Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Program (which includes acquisition and public access projects);
  • The Inland Wetlands Conservation Program (which offer 50 percent matching grants to local and state governmental entities for the acquisition, restoration, or enhancement of wetland habitat);
  • The California Riparian Habitat Conservation Program (which preserves and restores riparian habitat);
  • The Oak Woodland Program (which purchases oak woodland conservation easements);
  • The Rangeland, Grazing Land and Grassland Protection (which protects California’s rangeland, grazing land and grasslands using conservation easements).

California Farmland Conservancy Program: Run by the Department of Conservation, the California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP) acquires agricultural conservation easements on threatened farmland from willing sellers who may continue to farm without restriction of agricultural activity. The program was implemented through the Agricultural Land Stewardship Program Act of 1995 and provides grants to local governments and qualified nonprofit organizations, who must match at least five percent of the value of the easement or provide a donation of at least 10 percent of the easement value. Proposition 12 has been the major source of financial support for the program and allocated $25 million to it. Additional funding for the California Farmland Conservancy Program is provided through Proposition 40, donations, gifts, federal grants or loans, or other sources.

Park Development and Community Revitalization Act of 2008: This grant program establishes a local assistance that targets grants to assist in the acquisition of parkland or the development of park and recreational opportunities to critically under-served communities for the acquisition or development, or both, of property for parks and recreation areas and facilities. Administered by the Department of Parks and Recreation, which may make competitive grants to cities, counties, regional park districts, districts, joint powers authority, and nonprofit organizations. $400 million from Proposition 84 will be used to fund the program The grants will target areas that have less than three acres of usable parkland per 1,000 residents and is a disadvantaged community, as defined by subdivision (g) of Section 75005, and can demonstrate to the department that the community has insufficient or no park space and recreation facilities. The critically under-served community will have a significant percent of persons living at or below the poverty level.

Substantial State Investment

In June 2018, California voters approved a $4.1 billion bond with 58 percent support. The bond is dedicated to conservation, park, and climate programs. It funds state and local parks, environmental protection, restoration, water infrastructure, and flood protection projects. This is one of the few park/conservation funding measures that has explicitly dedicated funds to mitigating climate change.

In August 2016, the California Legislature approved a plan to spend nearly $900 million in revenue from California’s landmark cap and trade program. This includes an $80 million urban greening program that will create and improve parks in park-poor urban areas. It also directs $140 million to assist disadvantaged communities in their local efforts to combat climate change. Previously, California had made a substantial state investment in land conservation through the passage of five voter-approved propositions (Props 12, 13, 40, 50, and 84) totaling nearly $11.7 billion, a portion of which was dedicated to outright purchases of land and a portion of which was dedicated to the provision of matching grants for land protection that further enabled local governments and nonprofit entities to protect land in the state. The propositions authorized the issuance of $11.7 billion in general obligation bonds to fund parks and land conservation, with the $1.5 billion Proposition 1 (Water Bond of 2014), $2.3 billion Proposition 12 (Park Bond Act of 2000) and $2.25 billion Proposition 84 (Safe Drinking Water Bond of 2006) being the most significant funding source for land protection. These propositions are described in more detail below.

2014 Water Bond/Proposition 1: In November 2014, 67 percent of voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond, which includes at least $1.5 billion for land conservation and $200 million for green infrastructure projects. It was the first new state funding dedicated to land conservation since 2006.

2006 Safe Drinking Water Bond/Proposition 84: The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006, Proposition 84 authorized $5.38 billion in general obligation bonds to fund safe drinking water, water quality and supply, flood control, waterway and natural resource protection, water pollution and contamination control, state and local park improvements, public access to natural resources, and water conservation efforts. Of the $5.38 billion, $2.25 billion was dedicated for land acquisition.

2002 Water Bond/Proposition 50: Approved by voters in November 2002, Proposition 50 authorized the sale of $3.44 billion in general obligation bonds to invest in a safe, clean, affordable, and sufficient water supply to meet the needs of Californians, including $1.5 billion for land conservation including coastal and interior lands to prevent water pollution.

2002 Resources Bond/Proposition 40: Approved by 57 percent of state voters on March 5, 2002, Proposition 40 made available $2.6 billion through general obligation bonds for local assistance grants to fund state and local parks; land, air and water conservation; and historical and cultural resources preservation. Proposition 40 provided nearly $2.3 billion for land protection, with $1 billion slated for urban recreation and open space and more than $700 million for land conservation projects. Recipients of the funds included the Department of Parks and Recreation, seven state conservancies, the Wildlife Conservation Board, and local governments.

Park Bond Act of 2000/Proposition 12: Approved by 63 percent of California voters, the Park Bond Act of March 2000 (commonly Proposition 12), provided $2.13 billion for local assistance grants to fund state and local parks; land, air and water conservation; and historical and cultural resources preservation. The Act created numerous grant programs with many having an acquisition component, such as the Riparian and Riverine Habitat Grant Program, the Roberti-Z’berg-Harris Urban Open Space and Recreational Grant Program, and the Sierra Nevada Cascade Grant Program. About two-thirds, or $1.37 billion, of the Proposition 12 funds were statutorily designated for local, regional and state park purposes; the remaining one-third was designated for habitat and open space conservation.

2000 Water Bond/Proposition 13: In March 2000, California voters also approved Proposition 13 and authorized the sale of $1.97 billion in general obligation bonds to support safe drinking water, water quality, flood protection, and water reliability projects around the state. The State Water Resources Control Board was charged with allocating $763.9 million of the funds to local projects. Other funding recipients include conservancies within the Resources Agency, the Department of Conservation, and the Wildlife Conservation Board.

State Incentive for Local Conservation Funding

Many of the land protection programs in California offer matching grants to applicants, such as the Wildlife Conservation Board’s Inland Wetlands Conservation Program (50 percent match) and the California Farmland Conservancy Program (minimum 5 percent match or donation of 10 percent of value of agricultural conservation easement). The Williamson Act program allows local governments to provide reduced property tax assessments for agricultural and open space lands and, at the same time, local governments receive an annual subvention of forgone property tax revenue from the state. These matching fund incentives assist in leveraging extensive activity at the local level.

Public-Private Partnerships

The California Land Conservation Act, more commonly known as the Williamson Act, has been a major contributor to the preservation of agricultural and open space lands on a temporary basis. Enacted in 1965, the Williamson Act enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use. In return, landowners receive reduced property tax assessments and local governments receive an annual subvention of forgone property tax revenue from the state pursuant to the Open Space Subvention Act of 1971. The vehicle for the agreements between landowners, any successor of interest, and local governments is a rolling term 10-year contract, though some jurisdictions exercise the option of making the term longer.

Conservation Tax Credits

The Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Act of 2000 provides $100 million in tax credits for donations of qualified lands and water for permanent preservation. The program is administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board and permits private landowners to donate land or water rights to state and local agencies or designated nonprofit organizations for conservation purposes. In return, the donor receives a state tax credit in the amount equal to 55 percent of the appraised fair market value of the contribution. The tax credit program will remain in effect until June 30, 2008, or until the entire $100 million in tax credits have been awarded, whichever comes first.

Local Financing Enabled

Through its enabling statutes, California permits local governments, including cities, counties, and special districts, to finance land conservation activity through a wide array of mechanisms. These financing mechanisms for parks and open space include property-related taxes such as parcel taxes, sales and use taxes, general obligation bonds, and the creation of special financing districts. All taxes imposed by local governments are either general taxes or special taxes. General taxes may only be imposed by cities and counties for general government purposes and not by special purpose districts, such as school districts. Special taxes are imposed for a specific purpose or set of purposes, such as land conservation. A significant impediment to voter approval of special taxes is that their imposition, extension or increase requires a two-thirds approval by voters at a regularly scheduled general election.

Local Programs Included

Local conservation programs include:

  • Los Angeles County, CA
  • Marin County Open Space District, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • San Diego County, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Sonoma County, CA

Visit for detailed information on these programs.

Federal Partnerships

Federal agencies and programs that have conserved land in California include:

  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management – Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act
  • U.S. Department of Defense – Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Section 6 Grant
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Forest Service – Forest Legacy Program (FLP)
  • U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP)
  • U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service – Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)
  • U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service – Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
  • U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service – Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
Report Table
Dollar Chart by Year
Acre Chart by Year