Monday, November 17, 2003
About 40,000 acres on 46 parcels of land have been set aside from development during the past 10 years in Routt County.
The programs used to protect those lands, such as the Yampa Valley Land Trust and the county's Purchase of Development Rights Program, are profiled in a new study on agricultural conservation easements. That Routt County is one of 46 communities in the report is a sign that the county's programs have been successful, said Routt County Planning Director Caryn Fox.
"Routt County should be proud that we made it into the cut," she said, referring to the process through which the American Farmland Trust and the Agricultural Issues Center of the University of California at Davis chose communities to profile.
The county is one of only three from the central United States selected for the review. It is also one of the smallest communities chosen for the report, which focuses mostly on communities with much larger populations.
The Yampa Valley Land Trust, established in 1992, works to protect lands in the Yampa Valley and other nearby counties by working with landowners, securing funds from the county and other sources and holding easements. Other land trusts work within the region, as well, but Yampa Valley Land Trust is the most active in this area.
The county's Purchase of Development Rights Program was established in 1996 when voters committed to a 1-mill levy to fund the purchase of development rights until 2006.
Since that time, the county has set aside almost 4,000 acres, with about 3,600 acres more in the process of being set aside, Routt County Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said.
The land secured is worth about $10.4 million, with $2.1 million coming from the Purchase of Development Rights Program funds and much of the rest coming from owner donations, Mucklow said.
Once development rights are purchased and an agricultural easement is created, current and future owners of the land cannot develop on it, he said.
Communities in Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and beyond have copied the program, Mucklow said.
"(They) have all come and looked at our criteria to establish or build upon their program," he said. "So it is a model."
Routt County commissioners said they supported the Purchase of Development Rights Program and hoped voters would reauthorize it in 2006.
The study, titled "A national View of Agricultural Easement Programs," is available online at www.farmland.org.