The Land Conservancy of Adams County recently received the distinction of being named a “certified entity” under the federal National Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (NRCS-ACEP)—the only certified entity in Pennsylvania, joining just three other certified entities in the nation.

Certification means that when landowners work with the Land Conservancy of Adams County to preserve their agricultural land, conservation easements that are funded through the NRCS can be completed much more quickly.

“Our understanding is that we’re fairly unique in Pennsylvania as a nonprofit having a long-term, ongoing partnership with NRCS,” says Sarah Kipp, the Land Conservancy of Adams County’s land conservation coordinator.

Most NRCS grants go to county-run farmland preservation programs that match it with state or county money. At one time the Adams County Agricultural Land Preservation Program partnered with NRCS, but due to bureaucratic hurdles and conflicting requirements of the state and federal programs, the Land Conservancy and the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program came to a mutual understanding that LCAC is better suited to pursue the federal grants.

“We’re proud of the farmland protection we’ve been able to accomplish with NRCS, and luckily we’ve worked with some saintly landowners who found the patience to stick with us through these multi-year efforts,” says Kipp. “I’m very excited about the prospect of being able to move through the conservation easement steps with greater speed.”

To achieve certification, the Land Conservancy of Adams County had to demonstrate that its easement valuation, monitoring, and enforcement methods align with ACEP guidelines, that it completes easement transactions in a timely fashion, and that it holds a minimum of 25 agricultural easements, at least five of which were funded by ACEP or its predecessor programs.

Since completing its first conservation easement with the NRCS in 2003, the Land Conservancy of Adams County has completed 24 NRCS-funded easements preserving a total of 3,380 acres of county farmland. By working with the NRCS on its farmland-preservation easements, the Land Conservancy of Adams County has helped bring more than $4.7 million to Adams County to compensate landowners who have preserved their land through the program.