Land Trust protects Ebey’s farmland

Another 249 acres of historic and prime agricultural land in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve will remain available for farming, thanks to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and a group of willing property owners.

The Land Trust acquired development rights to the properties through a complex series of transactions involving six landowners and $3.3 million in federal, state and county grants and a private donation. The property owners worked with the Land Trust to accomplish a common goal of saving cherished farmland and a nationally significant historic and scenic landscape. The resulting conservation easements guarantee the properties will always be available for farming and will never be subdivided and developed.

Work to protect the 249 acres began in 2006 and concluded last month. It all started with a meeting between the Land Trust and Freeman Boyer, descendant of a pioneer Whidbey family. Boyer retired from farming in 1986 and, after selling some of his land to the Borden and Harvey families, decided he didn’t want the rest developed. The Land Trust worked with him to find a way to achieve his goals.

The first transaction involved the Land Trust entering into a contract to purchase 45 acres of Boyer’s property and assigning the contract to Erin and Mark Borden who own the adjoining 38-acres. Simultaneously, the Land Trust purchased the development rights to both properties, creating an 83-acre conservation easement. The Bordens plan to continue farming and create a haven for field-dependent wildlife.

In the second transaction, the Land Trust purchased a conservation easement from Judy and Claude Harvey, who own 13 acres adjoining the Borden property. The Harveys will continue to lease their property for farming.

Next, the Land Trust worked with Gene Kahn and Lisa Meserole to place a conservation easement on their 70-acre property, known as the historic Anderson Farm, which adjoins the recently protected Borden farm. The easement became possible when Kahn and Meserole donated more than half its value to the Land Trust. Combined with the easements on the Harvey and Borden properties, this created a 166-acre reach of protected land stretching from Fort Casey Road to Engle Road south of Coupeville.

A half mile to the north, the Land Trust then moved to protect another 83 acres by working with Joanne Engle-Brown and her brother, Bill Engle, another pioneer farming family. First the Land Trust worked out an arrangement for the Purdue Family LLC, also a pioneer family, to purchase 20 acres with the promise that the Land Trust would purchase a conservation easement when it secured grant funding. Last month the Land Trust obtained conservation easements on the Engles’ 63 acres and the Purdues’ 20 acres.

Funding for the transactions came from a series of competitive grants obtained by the Land Trust from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, Washington Recreation and Conservation Office’s Farmland Preservation Program and the Island County Conservation Futures Fund. The donation by Gene Kahn and Lisa Meserole completed the funding. A generous donation made several years ago by Muriel Pickard paid for the Land Trust’s staff time to work with the landowners and write, present and secure the grants.

The Land Trust and Island County will jointly hold the conservation easements, with the Land Trust taking the lead on future monitoring activities.

Recently, the Land Trust was awarded another $1.8 million from the NRCS and $672,000 from RCO funds. Once additional matching dollars are found, the Land Trust can acquire more agricultural conservation easements in Ebey’s Reserve. Private donations are eligible for matching these grant funds. Those interested in helping protect more of this nationally significant farmland may contact the Land Trust at (360) 222-3310.

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