Skagit County’s project to conserve nearly 54 acres of the Hedlin Farm was the top ranked project of 22 competing in the farmland preservation category of the statewide grant program, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Skagit County submitted 11 grant applications last year for farmland preservation projects and was awarded funding for 10 farms from the Recreation and Conservation Office.
“The Hedlin Farm project is a great example of what this grant program aims to accomplish,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. “Using this grant, Skagit County was able to leverage state funding by combining it with local funding to ensure we don’t lose more farmland to development.”
The farm provides critical winter forage for migratory birds including snow geese, raptors, shorebirds and swans and is next to Sullivan Slough, which is some of the best estuary habitat in the Skagit Delta. It also is an incredibly important as a working farm, Cottingham said.
Skagit County's population is estimated to almost double in the next 50 years and pressure to convert farmland is increasing dramatically, Cottingham said. The Hedlin Farm borders La Conner and the farm owners constantly receive inquiries about selling their land because of its spectacular views and desirable location, she said.
Cottingham will present the award to the Skagit County commissioners at their meeting at 11 a.m., Tuesday, 1800 Continental Place, in the Commission Meeting Room, Mount Vernon.
The Hedlin family has been farming the land for more than 100 years and has committed to preserving the agricultural and environmental heritage of the Skagit Valley. The Hedlin Farm is certified as Salmon Safe and was awarded the Vim Wright Stewardship Award for Farming and the Environment in 2008.
Skagit County will protect the farm with a voluntary, land preservation agreement, ensuring the land remains farmland forever. The preservation agreement allows the farmer to continue farming and the County to protect more land because it is less expensive than buying the land outright.
The Legislature created the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in 1990 with the idea of conserving land before it is developed, providing more places for outdoor recreation and protecting critical wildlife habitat and farmland. The Legislature recognized that the state’s growing population would need more places for outdoor recreation and wildlife and it would be more economical to buy the land early.
The County is matching the state funding with $181,350 in conservation futures, which are portions of property taxes used by local governments to buy land or development rights to protect natural areas, forests, wetlands and farms.
The competition for grant funding is high, with projects rated by citizens and professionals on many factors, such as need and cost-efficiencies.
“Only the best of the best projects get funded,” Cottingham said. “Skagit County has consistently brought forth outstanding projects. The County has had the top scoring farmland project twice in the past three grant rounds and overall has been awarded 48 grants since 1967 in eight different grant programs, totaling more than $6 million.”
The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board was established in 1964 to finance recreation and conservation projects throughout the state. Information about the agency is available online at www.rco.wa.gov. More information about the grant, as well as pictures, are available online at Hedlin Farm.