Steps for saving farmland from urban sprawl
October 21, 2005
All of southwest Missouri is facing land use issues. In Greene County, where the growth of three and five-acre tracts caused the loss of 724 acres to homes in 2004, this is especially the case.

The first step toward saving farmland is to establish a process for identifying and prioritizing the areas of prime farmland and fragile open space areas that need protection.

The second is to determine which of the various government and private sector approaches are the most feasible and effective, given the objectives and the circumstances.

One option is for private sector foundations, organizations, or individual benefactors to purchase property or development rights and provide perpetual care for it.

More common is the use of tax money to purchase development rights or conservation easements on privately owned land in environmentally fragile areas. This approach retains private ownership, but limits the owner of the property to uses that are consistent with environmental protection or conservation of farmland resources.

Another approach is to require developers, wishing to develop land in a county, to purchase development rights. The funds generated from purchasing development rights are used to protect important open space areas from development, in other parts of the county.

Several states prevent urban development by exclusive zoning designations that only allow specific uses for the properties included in the designated zones. In most cases, the formation of these districts is voluntary.

And finally, government can provide tax incentives to encourage landowners to keep selected land in farmland and open space uses.

For more information about farmland protection in southwest Missouri, contact DeDe Vest at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Springfield, (417) 831-5246.

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