The Washtenaw County Natural Areas Preservation Program (NAPP)—a program that purchases unique natural areas and agricultural easements to ensure their preservation for the benefit of all County residents, plants, and animals—was established in 2000 by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners through the passage of Natural Areas Ordinance No. 128. It is funded through a county-wide millage first approved by Washtenaw County residents in 2000 and renewed in 2010 with overwhelming support. This is an important year for NAPP because the millage, which funds the purchase and stewardship of conservation easement and preserves, is back on the ballot for renewal this November. If renewed, the millage would bring approximately $4 million per year to help preserve land in the County.
What many people may not realize is that renewing the millage is important for Legacy because some of those funds help support our work. Since the Program’s inception, the .25 mill annual assessment, or about $50 per household per year, has protected more than 9,000 acres of land through the purchase of land and conservation easements as well as contributions to partners’ land preservation projects. This success includes establishing 34 nature preserves that provide over 40 miles of nature trails for passive recreation, protecting 3,173 acres of land (primarily agricultural) through the purchase of conservation easements held by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (WCPARC), and protecting 2,200 acres of land through local partnerships.
NAPP financially supports local WCPARC partners working on land preservation. Our partnership with WCPARC is invaluable and contributions from NAPP help to close the gap on some of Legacy’s land preservation projects.
When a landowner approaches Legacy to protect their land, we use a variety of tools and funding resources in order to make this happen. Based on the property and the circumstances, Legacy may approach NAPP as one avenue to secure funding to conserve land. For example, Legacy received an award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conserve a farm in Sharon Township, but it required we provide a 51% match for the grant. Since Legacy doesn’t have those funds in our program budget, Legacy requested and was awarded funds through NAPP to match 40% of the grant instead. That 40% was also matched by another foundation to help pay for the additional costs that go into a conservation easement project, such as a survey, environmental site assessment, title work, closing costs, and staff time.
There are few county or municipal-led programs around the country like NAPP. Legacy and the residents of Washtenaw County are very fortunate. Modest contributions from each household help to preserve natural areas and agricultural land and the benefits to our community are priceless. Conserving natural areas and farmland within Washtenaw County helps to keep our region beautiful, attracts businesses and tourism, provides capacity for carbon storage and sequestration, provides wildlife habitat, filters our water, and provides flood mitigation during rain events. We are hopeful the voters of Washtenaw County will again see the value of the NAPP millage on November 3rd.
Click here for more information on the Natural Areas Preservation Program (NAPP) millage.