Jun 28, 2013

Counties and towns continue farmland protection efforts

Counties and towns in Wisconsin continue work on protecting farmland, and some have active easement programs among their tools. Here’s a brief summary.


Rock and Jefferson counties in south central Wisconsin both have farmland preservation programs, funded in part by utility settlements and donations. Waupaca County in central Wisconsin has a similar program that has helped protect more than 4,000 acres of farmland.

Jefferson County, faced with development pressures from Madison on the west and Milwaukee to the east, has received numerous inquiries about permanent easements, according to Margaret Burlingham, chair of the Jefferson County Farmland Conservation Easement Commission. The commission helped a local farmer on a PACE easement, and three landowners have donated easements on a total of 217 acres. Other easements through the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program are in process. For more information click here.


DUNN: One of the most successful local purchase of development rights programs is in the town of Dunn, Dane County. The town sought to protect its thriving agricultural economy and the families and businesses it supports in the mid-1990s.

Residents agreed to a property tax levy of 50 cents per $1,000 valuation to fund the program. It has preserved more than 2,800 acres. The local funding has also allowed the town to leverage state and federal program dollars.

Currently the town holds conservation easements on 27 properties, covering 2,996.07 acres and representing more than 16 percent of the area of Dunn.

In order to better leverage limited funds, the town seeks grant funding from sources such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Dane County Parks.  Grants and donations have paid for 55.34 percent of the cost of purchasing development rights, saving tax payers $3,361,389. 

When including the conservation efforts of other organizations, about 31 percent of the town's area is currently protected.

For more information on the town’s program, click here.

BAYFIELD: The town of Bayfield on the south shores of Lake Superior implemented a purchase of development rights program from 2002-2004. This community of only 625 people chose to contribute $300,000 to a PDR program in order to ensure the protection of their town's unique orchard community. The program was administered by the Town of Bayfield with day-to-day coordination by the local land trust, the Bayfield Regional Conservancy. The program is currently not funded.


WINDSOR: On January 23, 2007, the Town of Windsor in Dane County approved a voluntary purchase of development rights program to protect farmland and environmentally sensitive land by compensating landowners for limiting future development on their land. The program was funded with $500,000 in direct municipal obligations of the town of Windsor and was set up with the assistance of the Natural Heritage Land Trust. The town now has protected two farms with perpetual ag easements, according to Jim Welsh, executive director of the Natural Heritage Land Trust. They include the 184-acre Vern and Vicki Treinen farm, using local and NRCS funds, and the Jim and the 136-acre Jim and Anita Treinen farm, using state PACE and NRCS funds. For more on Windsor’s program and the efforts of the Natural Heritage Land Trust, click here.