Sunday, March 4, 2007

Washington County Can Vote In Major Land Preservation Plan: You Can Help

Washington County residents have a rare opportunity on their April 3rd ballot: They can commit their county and tax dollars to buy permanent land easements from willing sellers and effectively keep the land agricultural.

That would help to protect the county's rural character, environment and $630 million annual agricultural industry.

Supporters of a "yes" vote are getting organized, announcing a rally Thursday, March 8th, at 7 p.m. at the West Bend Mutual Insurance Co.

Washington County, located northwest of Milwaukee County, contains some of the region's most beautiful open space, including farmland, wetlands and remnants of the Kettle Moraine that have not yet fallen to the bulldozer, subdivider, and road-builder.

As one Washington County resident once said to me about why land conservancy was so strong there: "We want to preserve our rural character. We don't want to become another Waukesha County."

There are conservancy efforts across the state, and in Washington County, that utilize state grants and other resources.

But the Washington County-financed effort, if it wins voter approval (the Washington County Board had adopted the plan in March, 2006, then reversed itself two months later, finally agreeing to put the matter to a county-wide referendum), would be the first such county-financed program in the state and could help other counties follow suit.

The referendum would designate up to $800,000 in county revenues annually for ten years, "to preserve prime farmland, water resources and natural areas in the County through purchase of development rights, land acquisition or similar programs from willing sellers," provided matching, non-county funds are also raised.

Opponents have said the program is too expensive and would add to government power and regulation.

Here is some contact information about the "yes" vote iniative:

The Washington County Land Conservation Partnership, (LCP), has a website:

Phone inquiries can be directed to Sue Millin, at 262-707-0359.

Backers of the referendum have also established an action and education arm; donations can be mailed to it, c/o Bill Neureuther, treasurer, Washington County Citizens for Farmland & Natural Areas, 1351 Oak Drive, Huburtus, WI 53033.

Sounds like a great opportunity to help some of our region's activists win a big victory.

No comments: