TPL Praises Farm Bill’s Open Space Provisions

WASHINGTON, 5/9/02 – The Trust for Public Land today praised Congress for increased spending on land conservation programs in the new farm legislation, which was sent to President Bush, but also expressed disappointment that some proposed improvements were scaled back.

“This bill provides some significant benefits for conservation by giving new tools and spending to protect rural and suburban lands and farms from development,” said Alan Front, Senior Vice President of TPL, a national conservation organization. “At the same time, we are disappointed that the final version of the bill spends considerably less for conservation programs to help all farmers than was originally proposed by the Senate.”

The comprehensive bill was developed during more than a year of work in the House and Senate.

The legislation provides about $600 million over the next six years to buy development rights on agricultural lands, under the Farmland Protection Program(FPP). Front noted “this is a ten-fold increase over the $53 million which this program has received over the past six years and we are grateful for this solid commitment. But the public should also know the amount is far smaller than the $1.75 billion provided in the original bill which passed the Senate.”

The program permits farmers and ranchers to sell development rights yet retain underlying ownership, which provides income but insures the property will not be subdivided and developed in the future.

The bill also creates a new program to protect grasslands, either through outright purchase or the purchase of development rights. “More than 2 million acres of grasslands could be protected over the next decade, which would be a real achievement,” said Front.

In addition, the Wetlands Reserve Program, another open space protection provision, will be increased to 1.35 million acres over the next six years.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 1.4 million acres.