Celebrating easements, power of partnerships (Keeping the Farm)
Without preservation, there would be wide-ranging losses –to history, our freedoms, culture, sentiments, legacies and more. Preservation is an important means of protecting, keeping or maintaining something of significance.
Preservation of agricultural lands and wetlands is critical in sustaining the nation’s food supply, protecting open space, improving water quality and enhancing habitat for diverse wildlife.
And the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is using easements and partnerships to protect them.
Recently, the USDA NRCS celebrated the protection of 43,000 acres of agricultural lands and wetlands through 302 easements during a 25th anniversary easement event in Bridgeville, Delaware.
Twenty-five years ago, the USDA NRCS began offering easement programs nationwide. Programs such as the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program help landowners restore, maintain or enhance their land to benefit the environment and future generations.
“Preservation is critical because we need farmland to grow the local food and fiber that we all depend upon,” said Delaware State Conservationist Kasey Taylor. “We need wetlands restored and preserved for clean water, recreation, wildlife habitat and so much more. Preservation matters here in Delaware and across the country.”
Onsite at T.S. Smith and Sons’ farm, NRCS also celebrated their key partners, including the Delaware Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which have played a critical role in protecting the state’s wetlands and working farms.
T.S. Smith and Sons have approximately 180 acres enrolled in farmland and wetland conservation easements on their operation.
Easements geared toward agricultural land protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses.
“Preserving our farm will provide us with years of future use in the ag industry. Whereas, if we didn’t, there’s just no guarantee,” said Matt Smith, co-owner of T.S. Smith and Sons.
“Our 2,500 family farmers are committed to providing food to feed citizens within our state, the country, and world-wide,” said Michael T. Scuse, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture. “Easements ensure that these family farms are permanently protected, preserving the rich agricultural history that Delaware is based upon.”
Agricultural land makes up 40 percent of all land in Delaware.
NRCS is one of many entities with an interest in preserving agricultural and wetlands within the state.
In total, more than 127,000 acres of Delaware farmland are now permanently preserved.
Wetland restoration easements produce wide-ranging benefits including more habitat for fish and wildlife, less flooding, more educational and recreational activities, among others.
The Smith’s wetland project occurs on a major tributary to the Nanticoke River and is an important stopover site for neotropical migrant birds during the spring and fall migrations.
“By restoring these wetlands, along with several others in close proximity, we have created a large tract of permanently protected riparian habitat, which is essential in helping these birds rest and refuel,” said Brian Jennings, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Nationally over the past 25 years, NRCS has enrolled more than 22,000 easements covering more than 4.4 million acres. NRCS and partners have collectively invested $4.3 billion in technical and financial assistance.
For more information on USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, contact NRCS online at www.nrcs.usda.gov.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925