Easements protect Monroe County farmland forever

HeartLands Conservancy ended 2014 with the completion of three land easements, securing 1,033 acres for future generations.

The three agricultural and conservation easements include property owned by Rockhouse LLC and Donald Weilbacher, in rural Waterloo.

The easements contributed to the state placing the most property under privately-held conservations easements last year than any other year in history.

Collectively, the easements comprise the third largest in Illinois and second largest focused on the preservation and enhancement of natural lands.

“These property easements provide the best way to protect both agricultural and conservation land in our region,” said David Eustis, President and CEO of HeartLands Conservancy.

“Putting land into an easement helps ensure that space is reserved for the future and the Weilbacher families understands the importance of this.

“This is the largest easement undertaking in HeartLand Conservancy’s 25-year history,” Eustis continued. “We are grateful to the entire Weilbacher family for entrusting us with the task of fulfilling their desires-that the use of the land remains limited to protect its agricultural and conservation values and that the property does not get divided in the future.”

The largest easement is on a 718-acre property owned by Rockhouse LLC, a corporation owned by the nine children of Armin H. Weilbacher Sr. and his wife, Rose Ann. Two other easements of 211 acres and 104 acres are on property owned by Don Weilbacher, one of the siblings.

All three farms are adjacent and encompass a diverse terrain of forest, pasture, river and agricultural farmland. The family has owned the farm since 1959.

“Our entire family grew up on this farm and all nine kids contributed daily, working in the fields and with the livestock,” said Don Weilbacher.

“We had family meals inside the farmhouse, rolled hay together and ice skated in the frozen creeks in the winter time with neighbors and friends. There are a lot of memories here and we all agreed that the family farm needed to stay intact.”

Agricultural easements are regarded as the most promising tool for dealing with urban sprawl and protection of farmland.

Currently, there are tax benefits of agricultural easements available with federal income tax deductions greater for farmers.

Despite the many benefits of maintaining farmland, every day nearly 3,000 acres of farmland are lost to urban sprawl in the United States.

Heartlands Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust that invests in the nature of Southwestern Illinois. In addition to land conservation, the organization focuses on building greener communities and engaging individuals and communities with nature.

Those interested in learning more about agricultural or conservation easements and current incentives that assist landowners can contact Dave Eustis at 618-566-4451, ext. 28, or email dave.eustis@heartlandsconservancy.org.

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