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Historic Garst farms easements accepted by Whiterock Conservancy

The Conservancy ensures conservation vision will be met by future owners.

In August, Whiterock Conservancy in Coon Rapids, Iowa, enters a new chapter as it begins to accept donated conservation easements from landowners who want to ensure specific conservation practices and soil health management will continue on their land long after the ground has transferred ownership.

Conservation easements are permanent agreements made between landowners and conservation organizations that allow a landowner to maintain ownership and control of the land while voluntarily giving up rights to actions that could damage the land.

This permanent agreement applies to any future landowner as well, creating lasting protection. The conservation organization that holds the easement ensures current and future owners continue to meet the conservation vision of the landowners who established the conservation easement.

The first conservation easements Whiterock Conservancy will accept are being donated to Whiterock Conservancy by the Garst family as their generational farmland is sold at auction. The easements place a focus on protecting sustainable agricultural values, particularly as it relates to soil health.​

The Garst family is auctioning farmland located throughout four counties in west-central Iowa that already utilizes and benefits from sustainable farming practices. The conservation easements protect the decades of soil conservation efforts implemented by the Garst family and maintain the sustainable value of the properties for the environment.

“It’s natural for Whiterock Conservancy to accept these easements as it directly correlates to our core mission of responsible land stewardship through conservation, sustainable agriculture, recreation, and education,” Butch Niebuhr, chairman of the board for Whiterock Conservancy says. “Whiterock Conservancy currently employs the farming practices specified in the easements and will continue to do so on our own land.”

The eight farm parcels to be protected by conservation easement are distinct from the Whiterock Conservancy site where visitors enjoy trails, camping, paddling, and lodging in nature. None of this 5,500-acre site is being sold. Accepting conservation easements strengthens the organization’s ability to safeguard land for generations to come.

Whiterock Conservancy’s role is to monitor adherence to the easements and provide guidance on the conservation values upheld by the easement as technology and farming practices continue to evolve over time. This work will involve reviewing practices implemented or maintained on the field each year, such as no-till farming, annual cover crop plantings postharvest, maintaining terraces and grassed waterways, and more.

Following the Garst Land conservation easements, Whiterock hopes to accept more conservation easements in the future.

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