Farmers Use Easements To Protect Land

Housing developments are threatening centuries-old agricultural land in Western North Carolina, but farmers are fighting off developers with the help of conservation easements.

Farmland in Western North Carolina that has been farmed for generations is steadily decreasing, as more and more housing pops up on the viable agriculture land.

"The changes are mostly small and incremental â€" parents selling off portions of their farm here or there, often to younger family members wanting to build houses of their own. But cumulatively, even these minor changes are altering the complexion of rural areas and driving up the price of land. And bigger changes are on the horizon. A subdivision named Whisper Mountain, of 70 homes on 259 acres, is planned for the valley."

"At a recent meeting on farmland preservation held near Fletcher, a speaker asked the group of farmers gathered how many of them had been asked to sell their land during the past few months. Nearly everyone in the crowded room raised a hand."

But some farmers are taking steps to ensure that development on their land is limited, no matter who actually owns it. Many farmers are entering their land into conservation easements -- legally binding agreements in which the state, the county or nonprofit conservancies such as land trusts control the development rights to land. These entities are responsible for ensuring that any development at any point in the future is in compliance with the easement's terms. In the case of a conservation easement, those terms limit development to a certain percent of the land, thereby conserving the majority.

Full Story: Gaining ground

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