Deadline Now: Farmland Preservation
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Deadline Now: Farmland Preservation

Farmland Preservation

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kevin Joyce, Executive Director of the Black Swamp Conservancy, Matt Harbage, State Program Manager for the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Mike Bailey, Executive Director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Office of Farmland Preservation, join host Jack Lessenberry to talk about the value of farmland preservation.

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

A few months ago, Steve Pollick, The Blade’s award-winning outdoors columnist, quoted an even better-known writer, a fellow named Mark Twain.

“Buy land,” he said. “They don’t make it any more.”

Old Sam Clemens meant that to be funny, but there’s a serious message for our times there too.

As Pollick noted, our land is precious, irreplaceable, and we need to use it wisely. That’s the message the Black Swamp conservancy and the federal and state departments of agriculture and natural resources have been trying hard to get across. That wouldn’t seem to be that hard to grasp. But sometimes the lure of easy money makes that easy to forget. This isn’t just a problem in Ohio.

Farm and wetlands are under siege nationally and internationally, with often disastrous consequences. The destruction of the Amazon rain forest, for example. The passenger pigeon is just one of a vast number of species that became extinct after we wiped out enough of their natural habitat. The question is this: What happens when the farmland needed to feed humanity is all paved over, and the ecosystem is fatally disrupted by the destruction of our swamps and forests and grasslands? Tonight’s guests are working hard at trying to make sure we never find out.

That’s not an easy job. The Black Swamp Conservancy has saved more than ten thousand acres, through an innovative approach that allows land to stay in private hands, provided owners agree to preserve its essential character down through the generations.

Meanwhile, federal and state officials like Matt Harbage and Mike Bailey try to educate us about how to be better students and stewards of our land.  One of the most sickening sights I’ve ever seen was flying into Haiti more than twenty years ago. There was no such thing as conservation then, and you could visibly see the valuable top soil being washed off the hillsides and into the ocean.

That was due to the effects of what some called progress, and the desperate inhabitants’ need to cut down every last tree for fuel. My idea of progress is for all of us to try to do anything we can to make sure that never happens here.