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Area Land Trust Helps Landowners to Secure Matching Preservation Approval

August 31, 2011 | Three Valley Conservation | Oxford, OH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Three Valley Conservation
513-524 2150 | http://www.3vct.org

 

Unprecedented Federal Partnership
to Preserve Sixteen farms

 

OXFORD, OH -- The Three Valley Conservation Trust (TVCT) and the US Department of Agriculture announced approval of an unprecedented federal partnership to help sixteen farms along several of its major streams. A Federal Cooperative Agreement between the Trust and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide dollar for dollar pass-throughs of money to assist landowners in preserving their family lands. This agreement will make available up to $5.2 Million in Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) matching funds to forever protect sixteen farms during the next year. 

The funds will enable the Three Valley Conservation Trust (TVCT) to help communities to protect sensitive stream corridors and drinking water wellfields along tributaries of the Great Miami River in three Ohio counties. In addition, these same funds allow Three Valley to implement its strategic conservation plan to preserve high conservation priority farms where landowners have made commitments to conserve their lands through contracts with the Trust.  These properties are located on Four Mile, Seven Mile, Twin, Little Twin, Paddys Run and Dry Fork creeks. TVCT’s Cooperative Agreement is one the largest in the Nation.

According to Matt Harbage – FRPP Program Manager in Ohio, “The purpose of FRPP is to provide funding to assist in purchasing easements on land to stop non-agricultural use of that land. One Land Trust that preserves property using many different sources of funding while maintaining an unmatched closing efficiency in this State is the Three Valley Conservation Trust whose Executive Director is Larry Frimerman. Protecting these irreplaceable farm lands is essential to securing agricultural production in this region for years to come and Three Valley Conservation Trust has done an outstanding job prioritizing farms to be enrolled and going after sources of funds on a variety of properties from farmland, grassland and forestland.”

When completed over the next eighteen months, these easement agreements will preserve 2400 additional acres with prime soils, more than eight miles of stream corridor, 550 acres of forest habitat, and critical drinking water supplies for future generations. The NRCS agreement will help the Trust honor its landowner commitments for projects such as the TVCTs Seven Mile/Four Mile Creek Protection Project, undertaken with assistance from the Duke Energy Foundation. This partnership effort will help landowners to protect sensitive streams and open spaces. As a result, the project will protect water quality for an aquifer that supplies drinking water for two million Ohioans and hundreds of industries from Dayton to Cincinnati.

In addition the project contributes to keeping farmland available for locally grown food, another essential component to sustainability for the Region. This set of stream corridor projects also serve as connecting wildlife routes for waterfowl and migratory birds.

“Three Valley will make it possible to save the family farm,” commented one landowner. "Without them, we may well have had to sell to the highest bidder. The newly amended federal cooperative agreement between TVCT and NRCS granted requests for eight additional properties in a supplemental funding application round to bring TVCT’s contract for 2011 to sixteen properties. One of these special farms would protect the largest Great Blue Heron Rookery in this part of Southwest Ohio. However, five of these properties also will receive Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program funding also just recently approved. 

The catch?  The Trust must partner with state, local and private parties to raise sufficient matching funds to access these federal dollars. TVCT has used this federal matching money to generate nearly $2 million in state and local land and drinking water protection funds. In one case, TVCT has reached out to the Miami Conservancy District, who will provide partial funding for an easement project along Little Twin Creek. The Trust is also partnering with Ohio EPA and the Fernald Trustees on a large pair of pilot easement projects to further underwrite these family lands to be protected. “Do we still need matching funds? “Yes- these help immensely with timing and priority setting. So, we are grateful to accept donations to match these grants”, noted Executive Director Larry Frimerman.  In addition, landowners donate a portion of the value of their development rights. The donated value alone exceeds $3 million for these properties. These landowners, in turn, invest in their businesses and pump more funds back into the local economy.

TVCT must forever annually visit each site to assure that the terms of the agreement are followed, and must defend the easement contract with its core. These figures are astounding, and certainly significant achievement for a small nonprofit land conservation trust with two paid staff persons. “It would be nice if the Trust was permitted to retain a portion of these funds for administrative costs, but this is not permitted- instead, the Trust relies on donations from landowners and the general public alike.

The Three Valley Conservation Trust partners with people and communities to conserve the natural environment and cultural heritage of our service area for future generations. The organization works with willing landowners and governments to find ways to help these families and entities to forever conserve their green space, streams and working farms. Conservation easements also leave these farms on the tax rolls. Private ownership means that management costs are borne by farmers and other landowners. All approved farms must create and implement a federal Conservation Plan to use best management practices on their farms.

That formula has been a successful one for TVCT and southwestern Ohio- the organization has already protected 12,435 acres on 99 properties, with another eight properties totaling 1055 acres pending completion outside of the NRCS contract.

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