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FRPP and Paddys Run Conservation Project Protect Farms and Environment

 

The Henshaw Farm features tillable soils, stream corridors, and wooded slopes

 

 The Henshaw Farm features tillable soils, stream corridors, and wooded slopes in Paddys Run

It may come as a surprise to many urban Ohioans that agriculture ranks as the state’s leading industry. Across the state, crop, livestock and specialty niche farm production helps sustain the local and broader economies, while supporting smaller farm operations to large cash grain producers. Critical to every producer, whether large or small, is access to water, whether used in conjunction with farm production or by the family. In the Paddys Run drainage area in southwest Ohio, a unique program is working to improve and conserve water quality, reduce runoff, and protect productive farmland. The Paddys Run Conservation Project (PRCP), a collaborative project managed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Three Valley Conservation Trust, provides funds to purchase development rights through agriculture and conservation easements from willing landowners. The program helps keep land in private hands and on the local tax rolls while protecting farms and the environment.

Since the Paddys Run project began in late 2012, over 2,200 acres have been permanently protected through conservation easements. This voluntary program allows landowners to continue owning the property while permanently protecting natural areas and farmland from subdivision and incompatible land uses. For the Paddys Run Conservation Project, matching funds awarded by USDA's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program have been integral to the project’s success. When used in conjunction with funds awarded through the Paddys Run Conservation Project, property owners have willingly placed their lands under easement. Significantly, funds used to purchase easements allow farmers to acquire additional farmland, invest in new equipment or retire existing farm mortgages.

Tom Schneider, Ohio EPA Fernald Natural Resource Trustee, says “FRPP has been an excellent companion to the Paddys Run Conservation Project. The PRCP is funded through the natural resources damage settlement at the U.S. Department of Energy Fernald site and we’ve been able to leverage funds between the two programs to increase the amount of easement properties substantially above what either program would have been able to achieve on its own. The Paddys Run Conservation Project and FRPP create a great example of government agencies working with a local land trust to maximize the benefits available to landowners in the area for land and water conservation.”

The Henshaw property, first settled ca. 1805 by Welsh migrants to the area (hence the name Paddys Run), is one of several large family farm operations in Paddys Run recently placed under conservation easement through this program. Funds awarded through the FRPP have helped protect 332 acres of the Henshaw land in perpetuity. Picturesque and productive, the Henshaw farms are distinguished by a high percentage of prime silt and clay loam soils and 123 acres of woodland that is guided by a Woodland Stewardship Plan. The Woodland Stewardship Plan provides guidance on managing invasives such as bush honeysuckle and autumn olive, along with suggested Best Management Practices for timber sales and erosion control.

According to Stanley and Charlotte Henshaw, “The timing of the easement offer was perfect for us. It allowed us to become sole owners of the property and to make some necessary repairs to the house. There has been no change in our management of the land except for stepped up efforts to remove honeysuckle. We were able to benefit from the development value of the property without having to give up land or be surrounded by new construction. We and our children are happy to know that the forest will remain natural and the farmland will continue to be managed in ways that will preserve its productivity.”

“We at Three Valley Conservation Trust are thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful collaboration of like-minded agencies working together for the benefit of land and water conservation in the Paddys Run area,” said Liz Woedl, Executive Director. “We’ve been fortunate to utilize FRPP in accordance with our mission and look forward to continuing our relationship as we all strive to protect Ohio’s special places.”