Farmland Preservation a Hot Topic in Idaho's Most Populous County
With it's population expected to double by 2040, Ada County, Idaho is looking at a future without agricultural land. As Harrison Berry of the Boise Weekly reports, less than 8 percent of the county is now used for farming (down from 17 percent in 1939). And while farmland has actually increased statewide, the pressures of urban growth in Ada County has created a continued decline in farmland that worries some local activists and planners.
As Ada County develops its comprehensive plan for development through 2025, a handful of farmers and advocates are pressing for protections to preserve farmers' livelihoods, access to locally grown foods and open spaces.
"Right now, Boise's considered one of the best cities with a great quality of life. No doubt, because it has all these open spaces, but it's not going to stay that way if our whole valley looks like the stretch between Boise and Nampa," said Josie Erskine, who serves as district manager of the Ada County Soil and Water Conservation District and co-owner of Peaceful Belly Farm.
Erskine believes the presence of agricultural land is a quality of life issue, not just an economic one. To preserve the land for continued farm use, Erskine and others are looking at a host of alternatives, including agricultural easements to donate or purchase the land through a non-profit in order to protect it from future development. Berry reports that another idea is to create a preservation board similar to the county's open space taskforce to preserve threatened ag land.