The City of Ann Arbor Open Space and Parkland Preservation Program, also known as the Greenbelt Program, announced the purchase of a conservation easement on nearly 250 acres of farmland in Lodi Township, protecting the agricultural use and conservation values of the private land. Owned by Lloyd and Betty Guenther, the majority of the property is in active agriculture in a mixture of corn, soybeans and wheat, with additional areas of wetlands and woodlands also being protected by the conservation easement.
Using a collaboration of public and private partners, the Greenbelt Program contributed approximately two thirds of the funding in the amount of $757,580, with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Lodi Township contributing the remaining funds toward the purchase. ACEP is annually funded by the U.S. Congress, including Michigan’s delegation representing Lodi Township: U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Senator Gary Peters, and U.S. Representative Tim Walberg.
“Preserving and protecting our land is a win-win for Michigan farmers and our communities,” said Senator Stabenow, who has championed conservation in the Farm Bill and through legislation to provide permanent enhanced tax incentives for donating conservation easements. “Investments in conservation through the last Farm Bill have made it possible to protect our natural resources while keeping farmland viable and productive for future generations.”
“The Greenbelt Program is a proven public-private partnership success in Washtenaw County, and I commend the program’s efforts to protect our ecosystem and boost economic growth while respecting private property,” said Senator Peters. “This purchase will bolster conservation efforts and help protect our environment for future generations of Michiganders.”
The City of Ann Arbor Greenbelt Program is an innovative land preservation program that, since the Open Space and Parkland Preservation Millage passed in 2003, has also added 98 acres to the city’s park system. Collectively, these parcels have helped to provide linkages between existing parks, added to existing parks and protected some of the remaining critical urban natural areas. With this most recent purchase, the Greenbelt Program has protected over 5,060 acres of farmland and open space surrounding the city of Ann Arbor, and has leveraged the city’s funds with an additional $24 million from grants, landowner donations and other locally funded programs.
ACEP is a USDA-NRCS program that provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing agricultural conservation easements, with the goal of helping farmers keep their land in agriculture. In addition to the federal ACEP program and Lodi Township, other Greenbelt partners have included Ann Arbor Township, Scio Township, Pittsfield Township, Webster Township, Legacy Land Conservancy, Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy and Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. The City of Ann Arbor has worked with The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit focused on environmental conservation and economic development, since 2004 to implement the Greenbelt Program.