2009 Another Strong Year for Land Preservation

Preserve Washtenaw coalition announces land trusts and local land preservation programs protected an additional 1,156 acres of farmland, natural areas, and open spaces.

“In this time of change, more and more families are reminded that the land is forever…and that they have an opportunity to make sure that their land is forever protected,” said Legacy Land Conservancy executive director Susan Lackey. “The generosity of the people of Washtenaw County is impressive, and the partners of Preserve Washtenaw are honored to be a part of their vision for a community that remains as special as it is today.”

Due to the dedication of Washtenaw County residents, it is estimated that land preservation funds may generate over $100,000,000 during the life of the current millages for Washtenaw County. This includes funds that are projected from the Ann Arbor Open Space and Parkland Preservation (Greenbelt) millage, Washtenaw County Natural Areas Preservation Program (NAPP), Scio Township millage, Ann Arbor Township millage, Webster Township millage, along with the efforts of local land trusts, Raisin Valley Land Trust, Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, and Legacy Land Conservancy (the new name of Washtenaw Land Trust), and efforts in Pittsfield Township.

Leveraging Federal and State Funding
These programs have leveraged dollars from the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) to protect lands here in Washtenaw County. FRPP provides matching funds to keep farmland in agricultural use, with a focus on properties near other farmland parcels that can support long-term agricultural production. In 2009, FRPP funds of $2,565,000 were granted to protect Washtenaw County lands, through the Ann Arbor Greenbelt program, Webster Township Purchase of Development Rights program, and Scio Township Land Preservation program.

The City of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt Program and Webster Township partnered to complete four transactions, accounting for over 600 acres protected in Webster Township in 2009. All of these properties are in close proximity to other protected farms which collectively form a block of over 900 acres of protected farmland in the Township. In addition to money provided by the City and the Township, critical matching funds were received through landowner contributions and the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program. A total of $565,500 was provided by Webster Township, $2,303,211 provided by the Greenbelt, $458,850 from landowners and $2,065,500 from the FRPP grants awarded to the City and the Township.

Tax Benefits for Landowners
Many acres have been protected not only through purchasing a conservation agreement or outright purchase of the property, but also through donation of a conservation agreement by the landowner to a local land trust. Landowners may be eligible to receive tax benefits for donating a conservation agreement to a local land trust or local government agency. In 2009, several protection agreements were donated by the landowner.

One example is the 66-acre Renner Farm in Bridgewater Township on Austin Road. This land was protected by the Renner family in partnership with Legacy Land Conservancy. The Renners decided to permanently protect their land after learning more about the process from their friends Bob Ludwig and his daughter Connie, who had chosen to donate conservation agreements on their own Freedom Township land in 2007.

Other protected lands
Thanks to the efforts of these programs, many properties will be permanently protected. Some highlights in addition to those mentioned above:

A former extraction operation in Scio Township has been transformed into the Fox Science Preserve. The 69 acre preserve provides a unique opportunity for environmental education, serving as a real world teaching lab. Purchase/protection of this site was a collaborative effort involving The City of Ann Arbor Greenbelt Program, the Scio Township Land Preservation Commission and the Washtenaw County Natural Areas Preservation Program – administered by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, which now owns and manages the Preserve.

Scio Township completed three conservation easement purchases in 2009. The 100-acre Scherdt farm was protected with a Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program grant of $500,000. The other two projects—on properties owned by Don Botsford and Dan & Norma Green—both permit public access on private easement lands, and both have a right of first refusal so the property can be purchased for nature preserves when the owners are ready to sell.

To learn more
Landowners and others who are interested in learning more about conservation options, and which option might be best for them, are encouraged to visit Preserve Washtenaw online at www.preservewashtenaw.org. You’ll find information about the groups involved with Preserve Washtenaw, background on programs available, a map of lands protected in the County by all programs, and more.