Western Reserve Land Conservancy helps owners preserve farmland

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NOVELTY, Ohio — More than 5,000 acres of farmland and natural areas in Erie, Huron, Lorain, Ashland and Ottawa counties have been permanently preserved by Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a milestone for an organization formed five years ago by a merger of eight land trusts.

The 5,000-acre mark was reached with an agricultural easement on Huron County farmland owned by Brian Smith, according to Andy McDowell, western field director for the Land Conservancy’s Firelands Field Office.

The agricultural easement Smith placed on a 137-acre farm near Willard in New Haven Township brings the total amount of farmland he has permanently protected to more than 400 acres. This farm near Willard is the first in Huron County to be accepted into the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.

The land conservancy sponsored Smith’s easement application in 2009.

The Smith farm is located within the Huron River watershed, about a mile from the river’s main stem and near the Willard Reservoir. About 120 of the 137 acres are agricultural fields, and 94 percent of the property contains “prime farmland soils” as designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Smith’s great-grandfather bought the family farm in Huron County in the 1860s, and the Smith family has been farming in Huron County ever since.

Smaller project

Another land preservation project in Huron County, albeit of much smaller acreage, was 11 acres adjoining the 81-acre Big Swamp Woods in Fitchville Township.

Big Swamp Woods was preserved in 2010 through a partnership of the land conservancy and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Longtime conservancy volunteer and retired Sheffield school teacher John Katko donated this conservation easement on his high-quality swamp forest/wetland adjacent to the Big Swamp Woods. Katko is the founder of Friends of Wetlands (FOWL) in 1991 and has a long history of promoting the ecological value of wetlands in Ohio.

About the conservancy

Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which seeks to preserve the scenic beauty, rural character and natural resources of northern Ohio, has protected more than 370 properties and more than 23,000 acres.

The conservancy was formed in 2006 by the merger of eight local land trusts, including the Firelands Land Conservancy. The organization grew once again at the end of 2009 with the addition of Grand River Partners.

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