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We present the first comprehensive multi-temporal analysis of land-cover change for California across its major ecological regions and primary land-cover types. Recently completed satellite-based estimates of land-cover and land-use change information for large portions of the United States allow for consistent measurement and comparison across heterogeneous landscapes. Landsat data were employed within a pure-panel stratified one-stage cluster sample to estimate and characterize land-cover change for 1973–2000. Results indicate anthropogenic and natural disturbances, such as forest cutting and fire, were the dominant changes, followed by large fluctuations between agriculture and rangelands. Contrary to common perception, agriculture remained relatively stable over the 27-year period with an estimated loss of 1.0% of agricultural land. The largest net declines occurred in the grasslands/shrubs class at 5,131 km2 and forest class at 4,722 km2. Developed lands increased by 37.6%, composing an estimated 4.2% of the state’s land cover by 2000.