Over half of California is covered in rangeland. Today, 15 million acres of open space are protected because of the Williamson Act, which since 1965, has offered tax relief to ranch and farm owners who preserve their land. But according to new research out of UC Davis, recent cuts to state funding for the act are putting 20 percent of this rangeland at risk for development. We’ll discuss the Williamson Act and its impact on conservation and ranching in California.

Lauren Sommer, science and environment reporter for KQED Public Radio
Lynn Huntsinger, professor of rangeland ecology and management and chair of the division of society and environment at UC Berkeley
Daniel Sweet, fifth generation rancher in the Altamont Hills, former president of the California Cattlemen's Association, and a member of the California Rangeland Trust's Board of Directors

  • kristin yiotis

    Range land support wildlife that is not supported by developed land.

  • Karen Westmont

    No rational local government would allow more low density development in their jurisdiction until they can serve existing, expensive
    low-density development. The market ‘value’ in low-density development land derives only from the indirect subsidies we taxpayers give in supplying police and fire, street maintenance, sewer pumping, even mail service, and more, to houses scattered on long roads. Local governments should disallow the uses that—with their own subsidies— compete with agriculture value. And farmers know that as their own density declines, they have less critical mass to support their own infrastructure in feed stores, etc. One farmer or rancher selling out hurts the rest.

    Local governments should themselves pay for the Williamson Act to stave off more costly development. Other states subsidize agriculture in different ways such as allowing dollar-for-dollar subtraction of property taxes from their state income taxes.

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