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Land Bank protects Cattle Point Road farmland

The San Juan County Land Bank has purchased a conservation easement over 27 acres owned by Nate Howard and Elisa Scott-Howard on Cattle Point Road, San Juan Island.

In 2001, the Land Bank initiated efforts to purchase conservation easements over a block of contiguous farmland on the west side of Cattle Point Road south of Fairway Drive. Two of those easements were completed in 2003, including Heritage Farm. The acquisition of the conservation easement over the Howard property completes protection of this area.

In conjunction with easements on the east side of the road, nearly 175 contiguous acres of farmland, forest and shoreline are protected while remaining in private ownership. This area boasts both raw milk and goat cheese dairies, extensive fields for cattle and sheep grazing, and commercial vegetable and egg production.

“Completing this project has been a goal of the Land Bank for almost a decade,” Land Bank Director Lincoln Bormann said. “Adding this final piece ensures the area will remain open forever and allow agriculture to continue there for the foreseeable future.”

Heritage Farm easement 'enhanced'
Earlier this year, the County Council approved spending $115,000 to expand a conservation easement and prevent any future subdivision of the 39-acre Heritage Farm on Cattle Point Road.

Enhancement of the easement strips the property of one of its two remaining so-called "development units" and also establishes a boundary line for future farm-related buildings, like greenhouses, and a building envelope wherein the final development unit — a home — can be constructed.

Bormann said the boundary line and building envelope relegate any future construction far from the road, 1,000 feet or more, and closer to the vicinity of the big red barn and main farming operation. Though it doesn't prohibit additional greenhouses, he said the easement requires that they be clustered in the area of the property that's furthest from the road.

Bormann said the easement strikes a balance in "ratcheting up the level of protection" on the property while not eliminating the potential for additional farm-related activities. There's always "tension", he said, in any attempt to preserve farmland and at the same time allow enough flexibility for a farmer to generate income.

Though it builds on the first, the enhancement is the second conservation easement approved for Heritage Farm in the past five years. The farm's owners, James Sesby and Christina Dahl-Sesby, received $102,000 from the Land Bank in 2003 for a conservation easement which at the time reduced the potential subdivision of the property to just two parcels.

About the Land Bank
The Land Bank Program was approved by San Juan County voters in 1990. In 1999, the program was renewed for 12 more years by a nearly 73 percent vote of support. The program is funded by a 1 percent real estate transfer tax. Paid by those who purchase property in the county, this tax expressly funds preservation of the natural heritage of the San Juan Islands. Through conservation easements or outright purchases, the Land Bank protects special properties in the county. These include marine shoreline, woodlands, farmland, wetlands, and historic homesteads.

The Land Bank has protected more than 4,800 acres of important conservation lands throughout the San Juan Islands.

The Land Bank may be contacted by e-mail at sjclandbank@rockisland.com or at 378-4402.

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