Kittitas Valley Farm Easement Approved
An agreement between Forterra, Kittitas County government and Vernon and Roma Stokes will protect the Stokes’ 260-acre Triple Creek Ranch north of Ellensburg as a working farm in perpetuity, according to a news release.
Funding for the purchase came from state and federal government grants.
The agreement has been in the works for five years in cooperation with the Stokes, Forterra and county government officials, according said Jill Scheffer-Arango, Forterra senior managing conservation director in Ellensburg.
Forterra, formerly Cascade Land Conservancy, has led in establishing conservation easements for other rural lands in the county, but this is the first involving a working-farmland conservation easement.
With the easement in place, the long-time, family-owned farm can continue its agricultural operations in perpetuity without worrying about rural residential development pressures, Scheffer-Arango said.
“We are very excited about the successful conservation of Triple Creek,” said Scheffer-Arango. “It was a long process requiring hard work with a wide variety of partners, but we kept at it and were able to help the Stokes family fulfill their dream to protect their family farm.”
Kittitas County and the nonprofit Forterra organization co-hold the conservation easement on the ranch, and the Stokes family will continue to be the underlying fee holder.
How it works
Conservation easements allow land owners to realize the development value of their land while retaining ownership for continued agricultural production.
“Bringing this project together took longer than we expected,” said Vernon Stokes, owner of Triple Creek Ranch, in the news release. “But we stuck with Forterra and the process and were, ultimately, able to make sure that the farm we love will stay a farm for our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.”
Roma Stokes said, “We want our family to be able to enjoy the farm forever. It means much to us that we are able to leave this legacy for them.”
County Commissioner Paul Jewell, in the release, said conserving working farmland is a priority for the citizens of Kittitas County.
“Our rural way of life and economic base depend on maintaining agriculture, and we need viable farmland to stay in production in order to ensure that future,” Jewell said.
“Purchasing conservation easements on working farmland in partnership with private entities, like Forterra, is an excellent way to ensure the continued viability of our agricultural economy.”
Kirk Holmes, director of Kittitas County Public Works, said the Triple Creek project is a great example of cooperation to help agriculture.
“This kind of public/private partnership is what we need to ensure landowners in the county have options to keep their land in working agriculture,” he said. “ We have the transfer of development rights program, but we also need a way for landowners to access public funding for the future of farming.”