COON RAPIDS: Ground-breaking soil heath conservation easements went into effect this month, protecting 1,998 acres of productive, healthy Iowa soil in perpetuity.
Conservation easements created to preserve soil health were donated to Whiterock Conservancy by the Garst family farm entities. The easements cover nine parcels of land located in Audubon, Carroll, Greene and Guthrie counties.
“The Garst family has long been known around the world for their innovative work in agriculture. This is an exciting opportunity to work with the Garst family on such an innovative land protection strategy,” said Nicole Reynolds, executive director for Whiterock Conservancy. “We admire the tremendous thought, work and commitment they put into creating and donating these conservation easements before selling their land. This type of permanent protection is extraordinary.”
Conservation easements are permanent legal agreements between landowners and a conservation organization that permanently limit activities on the land to protect the conservation value that land provides to the public. When established, landowners voluntarily give up some of the land rights, and likely some of their land value, in exchange for the public good.
With these conservation easements in place, soil on these farms will benefit from the continued use of erosion control structures, the presence of living roots year-round and no-till farming methods. In addition, limits are set on the amount of livestock or construction that can occupy the land.
“Though it may sound complicated, the concepts are simple: The Garsts have ensured that this land will continue to be farmed in ways that enhance and build the soil each year and reduce soil erosion into Iowa’s waterways,” Reynolds said. “This good stewardship will last under every future owner.”
Whiterock Conservancy’s role is to ensure the agreement’s vision and the easement terms are upheld. Whiterock will measure the soil health and monitor activity on the land to ensure the soil health is maintained. The Garst Farms has donated a fund to allow Whiterock Conservancy to invest in this program’s long-term needs to assist in this monitoring function.
“The Garst family is generously giving Iowa a part of their family heritage with this donation,” said Butch Niebuhr, Board President for Whiterock Conservancy. “They have owned much of the land since the 1950s. Now all of Iowa will benefit from the protections these easements put in place for generations to come.”
The Garst land sale was held in August, so new owners for these parcels have already been identified.
“We’re looking toward to building relationships with the new landowners, our neighbors, as they take ownership of the nearly 2,000 acres,” said Carissa Shoemaker, land manager for Whiterock Conservancy.
Whiterock will expand its staff to manage these easements, ensure the organization’s long-term growth and focus on sustainable agriculture, conservation practices and soil health. Interested applicants should email email@example.com to learn more.
Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust stewarding 5,500 acres of prairie, oak savanna, wetland, cropland, pastures and forest along the Middle Raccoon River near Coon Rapids. In addition to preserving and protecting rare wildland, Whiterock practices and demonstrates sustainable agriculture holds conservation easements and is open to the public for recreation. Recreational opportunities include hiking, running, biking or horseback riding, canoe and kayak trips, fishing and much more. Whiterock offers primitive camping, modern accommodations, including cottages and event space. Learn more at whiterockconservancy.org.