Conservancy a presence in county

KINSMAN — Trumbull County landowners have the distinction of being the first in the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to have protected a total of 10,000 acres of land.

Approximately 150 people gathered at the Peter Allen Inn on Thursday where the conservancy, which operates in 17 counties in northeast Ohio, held an annual appreciation dinner for supporters and donors in the conservancy’s eastern region. The eastern region encompasses Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, according to Emily Bacha, Western Reserve Land Conservancy director of communications.

The conservancy obtains conservation easements from landowners suited to their vision for their land. Some want to protect natural areas, others want to preserve agricultural areas and some want land to be donated for public use, Bacha said. Across the state, easements have been obtained on 715 properties totalling around 53,000 acres, Bacha said.

Those at Thursday’s dinner represent 96 protected properties with a total acreage of 11,646.

Brett Rodstrom, vice president of eastern field operations, said two farmers in Kinsman donated a total of 8,000 acres.

“What this does is protect a farming community,” Rodstrom said. “Several other farmers have followed their lead.”

Those who protect land reap federal income tax benefits, Rodstrom said. Landowners who place a conservation easement on their property are eligible for a 50 percent deduction of federal income tax, which they can spread out over 16 years. Qualified farmers can take a 100 percent deduction, he said.

“They pay half their federal income taxes for 16 years or until the value of the easement is utilized,” Rodstrom said. “Landowners can still do things to the house or the barns on the property, but the 100 -acre farm remains a 100-acre farm. It can’t be broken up into pieces and the easements we hold are in perpetuity.”

Alex Czayka, eastern region field director, said in Trumbull County, landowners have bought into the idea of an easement because they are interested in protecting agricultural economies.

“This area happens to be very valuable farm land,” Czayka said. “The soils are pretty well-drained naturally without the installation of tile and it’s pretty nutrient-rich. It allows for prime agricultural land.”

Dick Thompson, a farmer who owns the Peter Allen Inn, and W.I. Miller and Sons, are the two Kinsman landowners who donated 4,000 acres each, Rodstrom said. Thompson, who has farmed in Kinsman since 1987, said he likes to tell people “there is life after a conservation easement.”

“There is no infringement on our freedom with our land,” Thompson said. “All we’ve done is give up the development rights. These wonderful vistas that we see will exist in perpetuity, and that’s what it’s all about. We still have open ground here and we want to keep it that way. Agriculture is a very important part of northern Trumbull County and southern Ashtabula County.”

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