Photo: Land Trust.

An Update on the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program

Apr 07, 2022 by Jana Hemphill
The Land Trust applauds the Oregon legislature for approving $5 million in funding for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program.

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Last month, the Oregon legislature approved $5 million in funding for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (OAHP). This program was created in 2017, but this is the first year that it has been funded by the state.

The OAHP was created to help farmers and ranchers conserve working lands and the fish and wildlife habitat they support. For the Land Trust, "working lands" means productive ranches, farms, and timberlands that, if undeveloped and managed well, can also provide important habitat for Oregon's wildlife and economic benefits in rural Oregon communities. With this initial investment, the OAHP can help provide funding for land trusts to work with local landowners to conserve their working farms and ranches through land protection agreements. Our hope is that this helps keep large family farms and ranches from breaking up, and helps maintain important wildlife habitat. According to the USDA, Oregon has lost nearly 440,000 acres of farmland to growth and development between 2007 and 2017.

"The legislature’s funding of the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program is an important recognition of the importance of working lands to Oregon’s natural resources and agricultural communities," said Land Trust conservation director Natasha Bellis. "The funding provided by OAHP will help Deschutes Land Trust leverage federal funding to conserve working farms, ranches, and forests that are increasingly facing pressure from our region’s rapid growth. Helping keep working lands intact and farmers and ranchers on the land is vital to protecting fish and wildlife and rural economies."

In addition, the majority of our Oregon Congressional delegation sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack about the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE). Their letter recognized the relatively small ACEP-ALE allocation dollars that Oregon has received recently and requested consideration in reallocating unspent grant funds to Oregon for projects that are ready to proceed once they receive funding. The delegation was able to point to the $5 million in funding through the OAHP as matching funds for the ACEP-ALE.

Stay tuned as more details emerge!

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