Partnership among conservation groups and community
Tue, Mar 24 2009 at 4:02 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
The Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust and The Nature Conservancy have announced the conservation of 120 acres of historic and ecologically valuable Rhode Island farmland. A partnership of Ocean State land preservation groups, and state and federal agencies contributed $3.6 million to protect Treaty Rock Farm in Little Compton. The conservation easements that now protect the farm ensure that Treaty Rock will remain a working farm and that coastal habitat along the Sakonnet River will be preserved.
“The owners’ commitment to conservation coupled with our efforts and those of our partners have ensured that historic Treaty Rock Farm remains an open landscape with active agricultural use,” said George Mason, chairman of the Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust (the Ag Trust).
Sisters Josie Richmond Arkins, Lawre Goodnow, and Helen Richmond Webb will retain private ownership of Treaty Rock Farm, as well as the right to build on two specified building lots on the parcel. The owner sisters currently supply wool from the farm’s sheep to the Rhody Warm blanket retailers, and sell their beef locally, enterprises which will continue.
The Ag Trust, together with the Rhode Island Agricultural Lands Preservation Commission (RIALPC), holds the deed to development rights for agriculture on 95 acres of the farm. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), meanwhile, will hold a conservation easement over approximately 20 acres of land and tidal zone along the Sakonnet River. According to the groups involved, the $3.6 million purchase price of the easement and development rights is considered a “bargain sale” transaction due to the high value of all development rights on Treaty Rock Farm.
‘The Nature Conservancy is thrilled to be part of the protection of Treaty Rock Farm,” said Janet Coit, state director of the R.I. chapter of TNC. “Our local farms, wildlife habitat, and beautiful shoreline are some of Rhode Island’s greatest assets and need to be protected for the future.”
The conservation values of Treaty Rock Farm are ecological, agricultural and historical. The farm has been in this local Richmond family for over 350 years. A rocky outcrop on the farm marks the spot where Awashonks, a Sakonnet sachem, and Benjamin Church, a colonist, joined forces in King Philip’s War. The farm extends from a cobble shore on the Sakonnet River across coastal shrub land, hay fields, pastures and woodland east to West Main Road. The farm has been in continuous agricultural use since the time Awashonks and Church forged their alliance at Treaty Rock.
RIALPC’s contribution of $450,000 to obtain the development rights and conservation easements comes from state farmland protection bond funds administered by the commission, which is provided with staff support from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM). Michael Sullivan, director of RIDEM and an RIALPC commissioner, explained, “Protecting Rhode Island’s precious farmlands has been a priority for the state since the 1980s, as local farms provide numerous benefits to our economy and our quality of life. Treaty Rock is assured of a pivotal role in the state’s agricultural community into the future.”
Joining with RIDEM at the federal level, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) provided matching funds in its commitment to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranch lands in agricultural uses. Working through its existing programs, USDA partners with state, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. Since FRPP was first authorized in the 1996 Farm Bill, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded over $16 million in federal funds to purchase easements on more than 2,800 acres of farmland in Rhode Island. In addition to the Ag Trust, TNC, RIALPC and USDA/NRCS, funding partners for the project include the Champlin Foundations, Sakonnet Preservation Association, and many private donors in the community.
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