The purpose of the program is to protect viable agricultural lands by acquiring agricultural conservation easements which prevent the development or improvement of the land for any purpose other than agricultural production. The program encourages landowners to make a long-term commitment to agriculture by offering them financial incentives and security of land use. It protects normal farming operations from incompatible non-farming uses and from complaints of public nuisance against normal farming operations.
Conservation Easements in Clinton County protect the agricultural economy and provide compensation to landowners in exchange for their relinquishment of the right to develop their private property.
Funds for easements are provided by appropriations from County Commissioners and from a cigarette tax, provided by the state. Clinton County's contribution to easements has been over $640,000 since 1998; State funding for Clinton County easements and costs has been more than $1,998,000.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in Farmland Preservation. The maximum price paid by the state per acre is approximately $13,000 plus administrative costs. In Clinton County, the average price per acre paid for easements is $1,014 plus administrative costs. This is comparable to the cost in Lycoming and Blair Counties; it is generally higher than Mifflin County and considerably lower than Centre.
Clinton County's Farmland Preservation Board of Directors are: Chairman Frederick (Dan) Chappell, Vice-Chairman Steve Bason, John Lucas, James Harbach, Charles Bechdel Jr., Mae Johnson and Tim Owens. Board Secretary/Treasurer and County Program Administrator is Mary Ann Bower.
The creation of the Clinton County Agriculture Preservation Board on August 18, 1993, signified the County's full scale commitment to Pennsylvania's farmland preservation program. The Clinton County Commissioners appointed seven members to the Board in accordance with the provisions contained within Agricultural Area Security Law, PA Act as amended. Since that time the Commissioners have continued to support the program by providing staff support and matching funds for the purchase of agricultural land conservation easements.
In 1998, Clinton County spent more than $265,000 for the purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements for the Farmland Preservation Program. Easements on 3 farms were purchased - the William L. Miller farm, The Steven Shipman farm, and the Ralph Cerrato Farm. In all, over 285 acres of farmland and woodlots were preserved, never to be developed. This was the biggest year in the program's history.
In 2006, the J. Albert Robinson farm in Porter Township, donated a conservation easement to Clinton County. This was the first donated easement and ensured that this land will be preserved as farmland, forever. The second donated easement occurred in 2013, on the Galen and Linda Donmoyer farm, in Lamar Township. In these cases, the sole purpose of granting the conservation easement was to preserve the land, with no consideration of payment for this action.
Through the voluntary selling of conservation easements, farmers are paid the difference between the agricultural value and the nonagricultural value of their land. This technique helps farmers who are feeling the pressures of development to sell what can be called, "development rights" and still continue to farm. If that is done, then the owner of the easement, the county and/or state, has the right and responsibility to say no to development.
In order to be considered and prioritized for a conservation easement purchase on a farm, a landowner must submit a completed application form for the purchase of conservation easements. The Clinton County Agriculture Preservation Board will accept all applications for the purchase of conservation easements to be ranked in odd-numbered years, and if the application meets the State and County minimum criteria. To qualify the land must be located in an agricultural security area consisting of 500 acres or more. The Clinton County farmland Ranking System has been devised to rank applications for conservation easement sale. The criteria addressed within the ranking system are in addition to the minimum criteria as required by the state. All qualified farms will be prioritized and ranked according to this system. The Board will ensure that all parcels submitted for easement purchase are evaluated during the same round of applications, including parcels previously submitted and still under consideration by the Board for easement purchase.
Public informational meetings have been held since 1995. Board meetings are open to the public. They are held when there is business to conduct, usually the 4th Tuesday of the month. However, in some years, only two or three total meetings are held. Legal advertisements are required to inform the public of the meeting.
Anyone interested in the Farmland Preservation Program should call the program administrator Mary Ann Bower at (570) 726-3798.Frederick (Dan) Chappell, Chair
94 Chappell Lane
Mill Hall, PA 17751
Steve Bason, Vice-Chair
6975 Nittany Valley Drive
Mill Hall, PA 17751-8661
Timothy Owens, Vice-Chair
1111 Sugar Run Road
Mill Hall, PA 17751
407 Cider Press Road
Lock Haven, PA 17745
860 West Valley Road
Loganton, PA 17747
Charles L. Bechdel, Jr.
1549 Eagle Valley Road
Beech Creek, PA 16822
431 Shoemaker Road
Lock Haven, PA 17745
Clinton County Board of Commissioners: County Commissioner Jeff Snyder, County Commissioner Paul Conklin, County Commissioner Pete Smeltz, (570) 893-4000
Mary Ann Bower, Administrator/Secretary of Agriculture Preservation Board, (570) 726-3798
Timothy Holladay, Planner, Clinton County Planning Commission, (570) 893-4080
Jim Watson, Director, Clinton County GIS office, (570)893-4280
Keith Yearick, Chief Assessor, Clinton County Assessment (570) 893-4034
Suzanne Foust, Past Administrator, (570) 893-1223
Since 1996, the County Ag Preservation Board, in cooperation with the Clinton County Commissioners and the PA Bureau of Farmland Protection, Bureau of Farmland Preservation, has purchased conservation easements on farms in Logan, Lamar, Greene, Porter, Beech Creek Townships and the Borough of Loganton. About 2,451 acres on 25 parcels on high quality farms have been preserved for agriculture forever. The Conservation Easements are perpetual.