The Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) has permanently protected another 103 acres of farmland. Working with CLC, Robert and Linda O’Mara donated the development rights on their property in the Town of Ghent, which is a working farm, and created a conservation easement that protects the important natural resources and characteristics of the property. With the easement, as with all of CLC’s easements, the landowners will be able to live on and enjoy their land, and continue agricultural and conservation forestry activities.
FARMS HELP FUEL LOCAL ECONOMIES BUT ARE UNDER GREAT STRESS
The O’Mara property is part of an agricultural area comprised of 18,000 acres of farmland. It includes 83 acres of prime and statewide important soils and is currently used as pasture for the grazing of cattle.
Columbia County strongly benefits from local farms like this one. In addition to providing food, family farms contribute to the area’s scenic beauty, rural character, and economy. In 2007, Columbia County farms generated $66 million in revenue. Farmland also helps keep local taxes in check, since farm owners pay more in property taxes than the cost of municipal services that they require. Land subject to a conservation easement remains on the tax rolls.
Despite these benefits, local farms are at increasing risk. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, from 2002 to 2007, Columbia County lost over 13,000 acres of working farmland. The O’Mara easement reflects CLC’s effort to reverse that trend and ensure that this prime farmland will remain available for agriculture forever. (More facts on the benefits of farms)
Both, Linda and I believe that farming is an essential part of the character and economy of Columbia County. Working with the Columbia Land Conservancy to permanently protect this farmland will help ensure that agriculture forever remains a vibrant part of Columbia County.
CLEAN WATER, HEALTHY WILDLIFE HABITAT
Protecting the property helps to ensure clean water and healthy wildlife habitat, benefiting the ecological health of the county. The protected property contains portions of a perennial stream that is a tributary to the Fittings Creek. It also includes 18 acres of Class 2 wetlands, as designated by NYS DEC, and 3 acres of wetlands identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory. Wetlands recharge groundwater and purify surface water, improving water quality. They mitigate flood damage by absorbing and holding excess water. Wetlands are also critical for maintaining wildlife habitat because many species are specially adapted to living in, or near, a wetland.
The protected property contains 35 acres of contiguous woodlands. Forests like this one provide water quality protection, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat. The easement allows for the woodlands on the property to be managed under a forest management plan for conservation forestry, which will encourage timber growth. Protecting forests also provides benefits to human health, as trees sequester pollutants that contribute to asthma, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The property is located within two miles of three properties that have been permanently protected with conservation easements, totaling 527 acres. Wildlife needs large blocks of habitat, so it is especially beneficial that CLC has protected multiple properties in the area.
This property is a working farm, with excellent soils. It is beautiful land, rich on conservation values, with beautiful views beyond. It provides an iconic Columbia County landscape. We are grateful for Robert and Linda O’Mara commitment to conservation and their wonderful gift to the community and to future generations.
Peter Paden, CLC’s Executive Director
SCENIC VIEWS SUPPORT QUALITY OF LIFE AND TOURISM
The protected property contains more than 3,500 feet of road frontage. From that road there are highly scenic views of the property and the Catskill Mountains beyond. The easement protects the beauty of the region, improving residents’ quality of life and supporting the region’s growing tourist industry. Protected landscapes like this one contribute to Columbia County’s $105-million tourism economy that sustains nearly 1,500 jobs.
SUPPORTS THE TOWN OF GHENT
The Town of Ghent has provisions in its Comprehensive Plan and land use laws that promote the conservation of open spaces and scenic areas as well as the protection of natural areas and farmland. Protecting this property achieves several goals of the Town’s current Comprehensive Plan. The plan recommends to “maintain and enhance the natural beauty and rural character of Ghent…Protect the natural environmental features…and preserve open spaces for wildlife, environmental health, and outdoor recreation…Preserve the historic heritage, structures, views and landscapes…and promote agricultural activities and protect farmlands.”
With the closing of this conservation easement, CLC now holds easements on 22,550 acres. Find out more about CLC’s Land Protection program.