Land Preservation Scores a Triple Crown

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Scio Twp Supervisor Will Hathaway speaks to a crowd gathered on Oct 18 for the Renz land preservation. Photo by Barry Lonik.

Three Washtenaw County townships passed land preservation funding proposals in the Nov 8 election.

Scio Twp voters approved a ten-year millage renewal that was first passed in 2004 and then renewed in 2012. The funds have been used to purchase land as nature preserves and conservation easements, where landowners convey certain “development rights” for residential construction, mineral extraction and commercial uses while retaining ownership and all rights not conveyed.

To date, Scio’s program has permanently preserved more than 1,700 acres including two centennial farms. Scio’s 0.5 mill proposal passed with 68% in support, mirroring previous results and will generate about $600,000 annually.

“We’re pleased that the success of the Scio land preservation program provided a model and inspiration for other township programs in Washtenaw County,” says Scio Land Preservation Commission Chair Will Weber. “The passage of our second renewal provides assurance for landowners that conservation options will be available for the next decade and that we will be able to continue protecting natural and agricultural lands.”

Advocates of Northfield Twp’s land preservation proposal have been working for almost two decades to get it in front of voters. Northfield’s five-year, 0.6 mill proposal passed with 56% approval and is estimated to generate $180,000 annually with funds to be used for conservation easement purchases.

“I’m grateful the Board of Trustees finally agreed to ask the residents,’ says Northfield Land Preservation Committee Chair David Gordon. “I’m not surprised with the result because surveys for the last 25 years have shown land preservation to be our residents’ top priority. The only question was whether they were willing to pay, and that came through loud and clear.”

Dexter Township’s ten-year, 0.5 mill proposal passed with 63% approval and is expected to generate about $220,000 annually with funds to be used for conservation easement purchases. The current Township Board was elected in 2020 after campaigning heavily for land preservation in Dexter Twp.

“We’re thrilled that Dexter Township residents were in vast support of this proposal,” said township trustee and Open Space and Land Preservation Committee chair Laura Sanders. “It’s validating that the sense of the community is to preserve farmland and natural areas. That needed to be heard, with tax dollars behind it.”

Washtenaw County is home to eight of Michigan’s 11 land preservation programs.

“It’s clear residents here see the value and importance of conserving land and are willing to spend a few dollars to make it a reality,” says land preservationist Barry Lonik. “The programs work collaboratively, share the costs of purchasing land and easements and have attracted millions of federal, State and private dollars.”

Since 2000 when the first program was approved by voters, over 18,000 acres of land have been permanently conserved including woodlands, wetlands, stream corridors and agricultural lands, many of which have attracted a young generation of farmers.

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