COLUMBIA — The remainder of a Environmental Protection Agency grant for the Bonne Femme Creek watershed can now be used to compensate landowners who give development rights to land trusts, said Jeff Barrow, a program manager for the Greenbelt Land Trust.
Greenbelt will be hosting a community meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Southern Boone County Senior Center, 406 Douglas Drive, Ashland to talk about establishing these land protections agreements, also called conservation easements. There will also be a series of 10-minute presentations from different local, state and national agencies addressing problems common in the Bonne Femme Creek basin, such as private septic tanks, sinkholes and springs, creek erosion and invasive non-native plant species.
The meeting is open to the public. Food and beverages will be provided.
Barrow said he wants the meeting to be a one-stop shop for landowners to find solutions and resources, but the “goal of the meeting is to attract people and find some who are interested in the land trust.”
Under the protection agreements, owners continue using their land as they do now, most often for farming, and forfeit their rights to develop the land.
Greenbelt is a not-for-profit organization and previously didn’t have money to pay landowners for their development rights, Barrow said. Instead, owners would donate their land for a tax deduction.
Now, the $100,000 that’s left of the EPA grant can be used to pay landowners for entering into an agreement. The amount each owner will receive depends on a property appraisal. Land that has more potential for development — land near main roads or with electricity — would be eligible to receive more.
What’s left of the grant can also be used for cost-sharing projects such as re-doing a sewage lagoon to fix leaks, planting trees along creek beds to prevent erosion or building fences to keep cattle from entering a stream.
Currently, Greenbelt has two agreements that protect 23 acres. One property is a working vineyard; the other is a private residence on a bluff above Hinkson Creek. The trust also owns two tracts of land, 80 acres total, that are used as nature sanctuaries, according to a news release.
“We’re trying to work with landowners who want to do the right thing and protect their land from inappropriate development,” Barrow said.