One of the tools used to protect farmland from Ohio east is the farmland easement. Some states and counties even have programs that contribute financially to make sure certain parcels will never be developed and will always remain as farmland.
There is no such program in Indiana. However, one of the leaders that help set up continuing farmland easements for those who don't want their land developed someday is the Wood-Land-Lakes Resource Conservation and Development group in northeast Indiana. This quasi-government group consists of several counties, and was the last RC & D formed in Indiana to date. Members of the local soil and water conservation districts within each R, C & D area typically makes sure these groups remain active.
One ongoing project of this RC & D is to work with landowners who want to legally set aside their land so that it will remain in agriculture. In fact, the group formed a Land Committee in 1994 to specifically handle these requests from farmers and landowners who wanted to make sure that no matter what happened to ownership down the road, their land would remain in agriculture.
Annie Sanders recently worked with Wood-Land-Lakes to preserve her wooded land in LsGrange County. Her goal is to see the family farm protected from further subdivision and from the building of additional residential structures. That's a reason which motivates many landowners to seek entry into this type of program.
She plans to continue managing the woods as timber land. It feed into the Pigeon River watershed in northeast Indiana. This is not the first time she has placed land in an easement program. In 2003 she donated a conservation agricultural easement on 140 acres of adjacent cropland northwest of Howe.
Her family supports her decision. She believes it will also be good for the future of the community, keeping the land in timber and farmland rather than houses.
Once land is placed in a conservation easement, the RC & D is entrusted to make sure the wishes of the landowners are protected. Unless specified otherwise, the land can be sold, but even if sold, it still must be used for the purposes as stated in the easement.
Kathy Latz, coordinator of Wood-Land-Lakes, says it's the fourth farm in LaGrange County to be entered into this program. It's strictly a volunteer program, and there is no payment to the landowner.
Wood-Land-Lakes assisted earlier this year in one of the biggest farmland easements ever in Indiana. The trust of an elderly Brookston woman placed 7,600 acres in an easement. The land was donated to St. Joseph's College in Jasper County and can never be sold.
Wood Land Lakes was asked to assist with that large easement, even though it is outside of its traditional working area, because of the expertise which it has developed within the field.