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County approves land for agricultural preserve status 

By Dale Andreasen, Siskiyou Daily News 11/13/09
Yreka, Calif. - Although the state is no longer subsidizing counties for loss of property tax revenue from land put into agricultural preserves under the Williamson Act, the board of supervisors voted Tuesday to approve five new contracts totaling 1,944.5 acres.

The contracts were pending in August when the supervisors discussed how the county should react to news that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed continued funding of the Williamson Act.    

The Williamson Act provided subvention funds of $700,000 to the county to partially replace lost property taxes. These payments have been made for many years but were never guaranteed. Supporters of the act hope that payments will be reinstated once California’s economy improves.

Under the Williamson Act, officially known as the California Land Conservation Act of 1965, local governments enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels to agricultural use or related uses, in return for lower property tax assessments.

“As long as I’m a board member in Siskiyou County, I’m going to support the Williamson Act,” board chair Michael Kobseff said at the Aug. 11 meeting.

During that meeting, the board voted unanimously to continue with the Williamson Act program whether it is funded by the state or not..

There are currently more than 400 contracts in force that involve more than 420,000 acres in the county.

The contracts approved Tuesday include:

• 1,099 acres for Prather Ranch properties, located in Butte Valley (property tax impact: $4,377);
• 160 acres for Sleeping Creek Ranch, located near MacDoel (property tax impact: $481);
• 84 acres for Stanley and Elizabeth Sears, located near Montague (property tax impact: $540);
• 551 acres for Finely Bros. Properties, located near Fort Jones (property tax impact: $2,132); and
• 50.5 acres for Glen Rizzardo and Kathy Burton, located near Grenada (property tax impact: $278).

Two other contracts were approved for modification, having no tax impact to the county. The Nature Conservancy requested to remove 87 acres from its existing 4,218-acre preserve and Irene Busk requested to add 87 acres to an existing 311-acre preserve.

The vote to approve all of these transactions was 4-1, with supervisor Jim Cook voting no.
Cook said he would “like to see the benefit go to the property owners,” but doesn’t “want the state to think we’re OK with this.”

Cook also said he wants to discuss a possible “moratorium regarding new Williamson Act contracts.” The board decided to bring that item back for possible action on Dec. 8.
Ag Department gets stimulus funds for noxious weed eradication

County agricultural commissioner Patrick Griffin received approval from the board for an agreement between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture.

The agreement provides $331,000 for detection and eradication of noxious weeds in the county between now and December 31, 2011.

The funding comes from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Leafy Spurge in the Scott and Klamath River watersheds was singled out for eradication efforts in particular, along with other noxious weeds.

The next regular meeting of the board of supervisors takes place on Dec. 1 at the county courthouse in Yreka. Meetings generally start at 9 a.m. with a closed session. The public session starts at 10 a.m.
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