December 27, 2021
Skagit County Takes Another 103 Acres Out of the Path of Development
Fourth Farm for 2021 Added to Farmland Preservation Program
This fall, Skagit County finalized a conservation easement on a 103-acre property to permanently limit the land’s use to farming.
The property, zoned Agriculture-Natural Resource Land (Ag-NRL), sits west of I-5 in the Conway area south of Mount Vernon. The county paid $155,000 in conservation futures tax funds for the permanent protection of this farmland.
The Farmland Legacy Program is a county-funded initiative that compensates landowners for development rights and that places perpetual conservation easements on agricultural lands in Skagit County. Landowners retain ownership of their land and continue to farm, while the easement restricts future uses to agriculture.
Interested landowners are encouraged to reach out to the County. The farmland preservation program works with willing landowners of Ag-NRL to achieve mutually desirable transactions.
“The County and I started having conversations about our family farm around last summer,” says Wendell Tobiason, part owner with his four siblings. “We weren’t sure what we’d do with the family farm after our mother died last February. The Farmland Legacy program allowed us to come together as a family to clarify our values surrounding the farm.”
“We are proud as a family to participate in preserving farmland in Skagit Valley, and as well, our grandfather’s legacy,” adds Michael Tobiason, Wendell’s brother.
These 103 acres bring the total to more than 13,700 acres of Skagit County farmland – out of roughly 89,000 total acres of ag-zoned land – protected from development since 1996.
“Skagit Valley is well known for its fertile soils. County residents and farmers alike want to see them saved and not paved over,” says Sarah Stoner, Skagit County Farmland Legacy coordinator. “It’s exciting that this land we all can see from I-5 will always and forever be available to grow food.”
The Tobiason farm has been in their family for three generations. “The Tobiason family’s commitment to protect this land benefits us all,” says Commissioner Peter Browning, who represents the Conway area. “They’ve protected it as farmland for future generations.”
A Look at 2021 in Skagit Farmland Preservation
The Tobiason farm is the fourth property this year to enroll in the County’s farmland preservation program. Also preserved this year:
- 210 acres of farmland on Fir Island
- 286 acres of farmland at the I-5 Cook Road interchange
- 170 acres of farmland in La Conner
“These four protected properties represent 17 extinguished development rights,” says Dan Berentson, Public Works Director. “That’s 17 single-family homes not built on valuable Skagit soil. That’s a strategic dodge of all the pavement those buildings represent not just in the homes but the new roads leading to them. It’s farmland forever.”
Total properties closed in 2021 to-date: $1,465,000 in Conservation Futures tax-funded easement acquisitions representing 740 acres protected. Additional queued applicants encompass 516 acres and 12 development rights.
The Skagit Farmland Legacy Program
Since 1996, the Skagit County Farmland Legacy Program has sourced $23 million in compensation to farmer-landowners for the permanent protection of agricultural land in Skagit County. The breakdown of the $23 million spent over the past 25 years includes $13.5 million in Skagit County Conservation Futures Tax and $9.5 million in local and federal grants and nonprofit contributions.
“For twenty-five years, Skagit County’s Farmland Legacy Program and its partners have helped permanently protect one of our most precious and finite resources: our farmland,” says Commissioner Lisa Janicki, who currently serves as Chair of the Board of Commissioners. “The fact that Skagit farmland soil is among the top-rated productive soil across the US—we want to see all of Skagit’s farmland protected forever.”
Total protected acreage as of December 2021 represents 15% of the roughly 89,000 acres designated Agriculture-Natural Resource Land in Skagit County.
Despite strong land-use planning, the State of Washington continues to lose farmland to development—nearly 100,000 acres between 2001 and 2016. Over 50% of the land lost was considered the state’s best quality farmland, according to American Farmland Trust’s recent report Farms Under Threat: The State of the States.
For 2022, the County has budgeted $1.8 million in conservation futures tax funds for the purchase of easements to protect additional agricultural land.
More information on Skagit County’s Farmland Legacy Program is available at http://skagitcounty.net/farmland or by calling 360-416-1417.