Tecumseh Land Trust’s Proud “Tradition” of Saving Farmland

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:03/22/2012 Updated:03/27/2012

Effective Use of the NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

The Tecumseh Land Trust in Ohio is a great example of how the right land trust with the right approach can play an essential role for farmers and ranchers - helping to keep their land in the family, to fend off development pressure, and even to reassemble farmlands that have parceled and sold off over the years.  A few weeks ago, I spoke with Krista Magaw, Executive Director of Tecumseh, about their success -- especially over the past eight years.

Krista touts the NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection program, which provides funding to protect prime soils in areas with intermediate development pressure - in other words, that “gray area” where it makes the least sense to develop but where there is potentially the most temptation to do so.  The program requires a completed conservation plan be in place with NRCS, comporting with their recommendations for best practices, much of which is no till. 

Landowners with qualifying land can work with Tecumseh simply by joining this nonprofit organization for $25 and Tecumseh will assess the land’s potential for protection. Since the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program requires a 25% local cash match to qualify, Tecumseh acts as a broker of funds from both the Farm and Ranch program as well as the Clean Ohio Open Space Program.  These state funds, passed with ballot initiatives in 2000 and 2008, support the protection of water corridors and riparian forest.  And of course a farmer’s riparian areas are always prime targets for restoration or improved stewardship.  

When a project culminates in success, which includes permanent easement protection, Tecumseh will hold the easement along with the responsibility to inspect for compliance with easement terms on a regular basis.  The farmer retains ownership of the underlying fee title of the property.   

“This has been a great combination of opportunities,” explains Krista.  “It turns out that by using this combination of funds, Clean Ohio can usually provide the 25% local match, since a farm’s riparian corridors usually make up at least one quarter of the portion least suited to agriculture!  We are very grateful to have received everything we’ve asked for from these sources over the past eight years.  

“We’ve successfully completed 22 projects using this combination of state and federal funds,” Krista says.  Overall Tecumseh has protected 116 properties with conservation easements, one-half of which were donated:  more than 22,000 acres in all.

Next week we'll learn how Tecumseh Land Trust is helping families to reassemble their family farms.