Loyalhanna Watershed Association farm preserved by state agriculture board
Bluebirds and foxes can call a Ligonier Township farm home for good now that the 120-acre tract has been preserved by the state.
“It’s a huge thing for us and for, I think, our neighbors to know that” the farm was safeguarded, said Susan Huba, director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association.
The farm, which is owned by the association, was among 35 across Pennsylvania recently secured by the state’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board. The program allows state, county and local governments to buy conservation easements from farmland owners in an effort to slow nonagricultural development.
The association bought the farm in 2000 to protect the open space and wildlife habitats. A restoration project completed in 2016 included farmland fencing and updates around the property and to the farmhouse and barn. The association has offices and an educational center on the farm.
“It’s a great thing to be able to have a sustainable agriculture operation on site when we’re educating kids about sustainable agriculture,” Huba said. “It’s what the land was meant for.”
A farmer leases land there for his herd of cows to graze every year, she said. The property also is home to a variety of other wild animals, from muskrats and groundhogs to birds that have just started returning.
“Our organization is so pleased,” Huba said. “It’s something we have wanted to do since the farm was purchased in 2000.”
In the latest round, the state board spent a record $38 million to preserve 3,333 acres on 35 farms in 19 counties. That included nearly 1,200 acres on farms in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Since the easement purchase program started in 1988, permanent easements have been bought for nearly 563,000 acres on 5,462 farms in 59 counties.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .