Clallam County pledges $1.5 million toward preserving two farms

Commitment would provide conservation easement on properties

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners approved committing up to $1.5 million from the conservation futures fund in 2025 for the North Olympic Land Trust to buy conservation easements on Cameron Farm Estates and the Heifer Farm.

“These are probably some of the most prime farm properties anyone could ever see,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said. “Actually, they are zoned so that you could drop 30 houses on them, in those particular properties, if you subdivide them and did that.

“The whole reason for conservation futures is to preserve farmland and, in my mind, this is exactly what we need to be doing that,” he said. “And again, it is prioritizing over a period of time. But to have properties this significant suddenly become available is very unique. Since I’ve been a commissioner anyway.”

The $1.5 million in funding, which would be dispersed in 2025, would provide $630,000 for a conservation easement on the 40-acre Cameron Estates farm, with the remainder going to easements on the 85-acre Heifer Farms North farm and 58-acre Heifeer Farms South, depending upon how much money is left in the fund and the final purchase price.

The North Olympic Land Trust is seeking several other funding sources for the purchases.

Clallam County Administrator Todd Mielke said the $1.5 million commitment will fully deplete the conservation futures fund until it replenishes itself over the next several years.

“It sounds like that’s the understanding the conservation futures funding board has and because of the nature of these opportunities is recommending that we take advantage of it while it exists,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said.

Since its founding in 1990, NOLT has worked with landowners and the community to conserve more than 3,300 acres across the North Olympic Peninsula for farms, fish and forests.

In Clallam County, the average farm size is 44 acres, according to NOLT. However, in the past 70 years, more than 75 percent of Clallam’s farmland has been converted to other uses.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached by email at brian.gawley@peninsulanews.us.

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