Local farmers permanently protect land from development | TheFencePost.com

Local farmers permanently protect land from development

Landowner John Cox of East Orchard Mesa took property that had already been subdivided and plotted for housing and rezoned it agricultural.

Then he went a step further and placed the land into a conservation easement, forever protecting it from development.

Cox is one of three farmers who completed conservation easements with the Mesa Land Trust last winter. The agreements conserve 35 acres, including two peach orchards highly visible from Interstate 70 and a vineyard on East Orchard Mesa.

Cox said his and his wife’s long-term goal is to preserve good farmland as farmland.

“We’d like to keep it in agriculture instead of (allowing) the potential for development later,” he said.

It’s the third time that Cox has put portions of his land into conservation easements.

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Landowners who sign conservation agreements continue to own the land, may keep farming it and can sell the land – although the terms of the agreement remain intact forever, even with a new owner.

A landowner agrees to relinquish all future rights to develop the land when it’s placed in a conservation easement.

“We’re glad there’s a state incentive to put these easements on agricultural land. It’s a win-win situation for farmers and the public.”

It’s important to preserve agricultural lands around Palisade because of its mild micro-climate conducive to growing peaches, Cox said.

Cox donated his lands to the Land Trust in exchange for state tax credits and federal tax deductions.

Colorado is one of three states that has a transferable state tax program, said Margie Latta, land protection specialist with Mesa Land Trust. Landowners who earn tax credits by donating land for an easement can sell those tax credits to a second party, to someone with a larger tax liability.

“It’s a big incentive for landowners who can extract (monetary) value from their land without selling it,” Latta said.

“I get something for the value and still retain the most important value,” Cox said.

Joel Horn of Palisade and Poppy Woody of East Orchard Mesa also completed conservation easements with Mesa Land Trust.

The Horn orchard and Woody vineyard both lie within the Palisade Buffer Zone, an area designated for reduced growth to maintain separation and distinction between municipalities.

Since its inception in 1980, the Land Trust has conserved more than 53,000 acres through 149 conservation easements within Mesa County.

“We are so fortunate to have landowners such as Joel Horn, John and Diane Cox, and Poppy Woody that place such a high value on our working farms and open lands and are willing to step up and preserve these lands for our community,” Latta said.

The Mesa Land Trust is a private nonprofit organization started by local Palisade farmers to save farm land and other open space.

For more information please call 263-5443 or visit http://www.MesaLandTrust.org.