Vail Daily column: $1B passed for land conservation
Recently, the United States Congress passed a U.S. farm bill with bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans. President Obama signed the farm bill into law on Feb. 7. While most of us can certainly find items in the law that we don’t like, there was a significant silver lining for the permanent conservation of working farms and ranches in rural communities such as ours here in Eagle County.
Under the bill, $1 billion dollars will be provided over the next 10 years to purchase perpetual conservation easements from landowners who are willing to restrict development. This new conservation program, called the Agricultural Lands Easement Program, is a great investment for future generations of farmers and ranchers across our country and in Eagle County.
FARM BILL HELPS KEEP FOOD LOCAL
The money authorized by the farm bill will keep working farms and ranches in local family hands and reinvest dollars, keeping local communities vital. It will help ensure that local food will be available in farming communities across the United States, including Eagle County. Moreover, this law will help to create and secure jobs, helping to restore and maintain our agricultural heritage and ways of life.
The money in the new Agricultural Lands Easement Program will allow the Eagle Valley Land Trust to work with more local landowners to conserve their land and preserve valuable natural resources for our mountain community. Our organization protects the landscapes that make this community a wonderful place to live, and we are excited to have this important new incentive in our conservation toolkit.
This program will allow our local family farmers, ranchers and foresters to choose conservation, keeping their land in production, protecting the quality of our air and water, making locally grown food possible, providing critical wildlife habitat, protecting special places, and supporting rural livelihoods. It will help ensure that the land that grows our food will not be lost, protecting jobs and community values across the county, the state and our country.
ALLOWS LAND TRUST TO CONSERVE MORE
Eagle Valley Land Trust holds more than 5,500 acres of working farms and ranchland under permanent conservation easements in and around Eagle County. With the passage of the farm bill, we can expect to see a substantial increase in landowners interested in conserving their properties for the benefit of our community and our future generations. We are excited to promote the Agricultural Lands Easement Program and its financial benefits to local farmers and ranchers so together we may conserve more local land.
The Land Trust would like to give special thanks to our very own Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, whose support and hard work was instrumental in securing this important conservation program as part of the Farm Bill. Protecting working farms and ranches in our local community and saving the lands and landscapes that make Eagle County special are key components to maintaining our high quality of life and sustaining our local economy.
With the passage of the farm bill and its $1 billion dollar land conservation program, more agricultural land in Eagle County can and will be conserved forever.
Jason Denhart is the director of communications and development for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. For more information about your local land trust or the Agricultural Land Easement Program, please visit http://www.evlt.org.