California Wetlands Information System

Williamson Act (Land Conservation Act of 1965)

The Williamson Act provides for lowered property taxes for lands maintained in agricultural and certain open space uses. The landowner enters into a contract with the county or city to restrict land uses to those compatible with agriculture, wildlife habitat, scenic corridors, recreational use, or open space. In return, the local authorities calculate the property tax assessment based on the actual use of the land instead of its potential value assuming full commercial development. To be eligible, the land must be designated by a city or county as agricultural preserve, scenic highway corridor, or wildlife habitat area; or it must be actively used for the three years immediately preceding the beginning of the contract as a saltpond, managed wetland, or recreational or open space area.

Each year the contract is automatically renewed for a new ten-year period, unless the landowner notifies the local government of a desire not to renew. In that case, the land use restrictions remain in effect until the remaining nine years of the contract have passed. There are also provisions for cancelling the contract if cancellation is consistent with the purposes of the Williamson Act or otherwise found to be in the public interest. A cancellation fee and deferred taxes, which under some circumstances can be waived, must be paid upon cancellation.


Statewide. Contact your local planning or community development department.

This page is an exerpt from Options for Wetland Conservation: A Guide for California Landowners, a publication of the California State Coastal Commission. To obtain a copy of the guide or for more information about the Coastal Conservancy contact:

California State Coastal Conservancy
1330 Broadway, Suite 1100
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 286-1015
FAX: (510) 286-0470



This file last modified on: Wednesday, November 27, 2002.
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