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SG-W:/ PDR event

Hi All--

Our PDR event went very well this morning. Almost half of the farmers who applied for PDR in Washtenaw County attended, and spoke very eloquently about why they applied for the program and how they are trying to resist development and keep their land in agriculture. Below is a copy of the press release we handed out.

More soon,


FOR MORE INFO: BARRY LONIK, (734) 426-3669
LIZ BRATER, (734) 761-3186
MIKE FUSILIER, (734) 428-0092
JIM FUERSTENAU, (800) 292-2680 X6550


Washtenaw County farmland owners submitted a record number of applications for the State of Michigan Farmland Preservation Program in the year 2000. Figures from the Washtenaw County Conservation District indicate that 31 applications were submitted, covering over 3,400 acres of land. In all about 300 applications were received statewide, meaning that Washtenaw County submitted 10% of the total.

The State program, now in its third year, provides owners of qualified agricultural land with a cash payment for the value of the land's development potential while keeping the land in private ownership. Participating landowners agree to restrict development of their property in exchange for the payment. The Washtenaw-Potawatomi Land Trust (WPLT) once again offered assistance to Washtenaw County landowners wishing to submit applications for the State program, and met with most of the applicants for the 2000 application round.

"This outcome provides tangible evidence that farmland owners in Washtenaw County care deeply about their land and want to see it preserved," said Barry Lonik, WPLT's Executive Director. "Farmers can't afford to give away their land or their development rights; their land is their retirement, their kids' education, their nest egg for the future. If they can be fairly compensated for their development rights-and the agricultural, scenic and natural values of their properties permanently protected-everyone wins."

The Farmland and Open Space Preservation Unit of the Michigan Department of Agriculture manages the State program. For the 2000 application round, the state legislature appropriated only $5 million statewide to fund the program. State officials estimate that between 15 and 25 farms will be selected from the 300 applications received.

"There were more applications from Washtenaw County alone than can be funded with the money available for the whole state," said Liz Brater, Land Use Program Coordinator for the Ecology Center. "Michigan continues to lag behind other states that operate PDR programs and bolster the agricultural economy. We call on the legislature and Governor Engler to put some real dollars into this program so farmers can preserve their land for future generations."

Those who applied for the State program all present a strong commitment to their land and their heritage. James Vershum has a dairy farm in Bridgewater Township and works 900 acres of cropland. "I didn't want the ground to be built on," he said. "I want it to be a farm. I've got a couple of sons who are farming. This is a good way to protect it. They're building [houses] all around us."

Karl and Theresa Schenk raise beef and cash crops on a Freedom Township farm that has been in Karl's family for six generations, since his ancestors came from Germany in 1849. "Our primary reason [for applying] was to make a statement," said Theresa who is also the township clerk. "Land is a finite resource. We are willing to trade the ability to get the top dollar for our land for the privilege of knowing our farm will never be developed. We believe it is possible to keep agriculture in Washtenaw County."

Dale Lesser's family began farming locally in the 1870s; they currently raise a variety of agricultural products on their 450 acre farm in Dexter Township. "What I like about selling development rights is that it's the best market-based approach to saving farmland while still respecting private property rights," he said. "It's a voluntary method that respects our right to do with the land as we please."

Bob Heller owns 290 acres in Freedom and Lima Townships where he raises beef cattle and cash crops. "I've been farming all my life and spent the last 48 years to make this farm the way it is," he said, "and I don't want to see it go to the land butchers. Selling development rights give me a chance to realize part of my 401k plan while I'm still alive. And my land is my 401k plan."

"PDR is a great tool to preserve farmland," said Mike Fusilier, Manchester Township farmer and Michigan Farm Bureau District Director. "Washtenaw County farmland is unique. Some say we're like a little Wisconsin, with small farms in rolling countryside. We need to preserve farmland to save our quality of life and so Washtenaw County isn't paved over."

For more information, contact Barry Lonik from WPLT at (734) 426-3669, or email at <BLonik13@aol.com>; Liz Brater from the Ecology Center at (734) 761-3186, or email at <lizb@ecocenter.org>; Mike Fusilier from Michigan Farm Bureau at (734) 428-0092; or Jim Fuerstenau from the Michigan Farmland and Community Alliance at (800) 292-2680, extension 6550, of email at <jfuerstenau@mfcaonline.com>.


Liz Brater
Land Use Director
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3186 x121