Lanc_CtyThe Pennsylvania Land Trust Association honored Lancaster County with the 2014 Government Conservation Leadership Award for demonstrated leadership in the conservation of our special landscapes and critical natural resources.

[Pictured from left to right are Matt Knepper, Director of the Lancaster Agricultural Preservation Board; Commissioner Craig Lehman, Chairman Dennis Stuckey and PALTA Executive Director Andrew Loza.]

As a result of a long history of leadership, innovation and cooperation, Lancaster County ranks number one in the nation in farmland preservation with over 100,000 acres of protected farmland. This conservation success is also worthy of note since the average farm in Lancaster County is only 78 acres.

This achievement took root more than 30 years ago, with the vision of Amos Funk, known as the Father of Farmland Preservation. Funk tirelessly advocated for farmland preservation in Lancaster County, and was successful in establishing the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board in 1980, and creating the private, nonprofit Lancaster Farmland Trust in 1988. These two organizations continue to work in partnership with each other to preserve Lancaster County’s precious farmland.

Through the continued leadership of Lancaster County’s Commissioners, farmland preservation has been a priority of the county budget. This dedication to providing county funding has enabled the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board and Lancaster Farmland Trust to leverage their resources with those of the federal government, state, local municipalities and with corporate and individual donors. Through the use of innovative funding and incentives, the County has been able to maximize the use of farmland preservation dollars and further the impact of preservation throughout the County.

Since 2004, Lancaster County’s matching grants to Lancaster Farmland Trust have allowed the Trust to raise more than $9.5 million in private dollars for additional farmland preservation efforts. This combined effort has resulted in the county preservation program protecting more land with fewer dollars and provides the opportunity for the Trust to garner additional private grants by leveraging the County’s investment.

Farmland preservation provides innumerable benefits both to the community and the environment. Lancaster County’s farmland preservation programs are national models for success, and its residents will forever benefit from the vision and leadership demonstrated by its farmers, elected officials, staff, nonprofit organizations and volunteers to forever preserve its productive farmland.

Andy Loza, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association stated, “I commend Lancaster’s County leadership in protecting Pennsylvania’s productive farmland and treasured landscapes.”

The award was presented Saturday, May 3rd in conjunction with the 12th Annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Chairman Dennis Stuckey, Commissioner Craig Lehman and Matt Knepper, Director of the County’s Agricultural Preservation Program, accepted the award on behalf of the County.