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Numbers add up for preservation program

When Dakota County voters approved a $20 million funding for the Farmland and Natural Area Program in 2003, their goal was to protect farmland and natural areas as development grew up around the county.

Much of that goal has been accomplished in the past nine years. As of 2012, the estimated value of land protected or in the process of being protected is more than $75 million.

Program manager Al Singer provided a status report to the Dakota County Board of Commissioners this week.

The county has dedicated $19,845,015 for county land protection. Fifty percent was available for farmland protection and 50 percent was for natural area protection.

County staff has completed 44 farmland projects with 17 other approved projects in varying stages of completion. The actual and protected amount of protected farmland and associated natural areas is 6,859 acres. A total of 33 natural area projects have been completed with 12 approved projects in different phases of completion. The projected amount of natural areas is 2,780 acres.

The 106 completed or approved projects are projected to result in the protection of 9,638 acres.

One of the county's FNAP goals was to leverage non-county funding. This has been accomplished in three primary ways.

The first was to provide incentive to landowners to donate a portion of the land or easement value. This has resulted in an estimated $24.5 million of donated land value

The second was to attract or provide matching funds for projects where another public entity such as a city or state would own fee title. This has resulted in an estimated $19.362 million on non-county funds used for FNAP-related land projected projects.

The third method was to attract matching reimbursement funds for easements acquired by the county. The third approach created a type of revolving accounts where bond funds were used to pay the initial expenses and the reimbursements were then added to the FNAP fund balance for additional land projection projects. An estimated $12.415 million from a variety of federal, state and locals sources have been or will be received by the county.

Based on the estimated costs and expected reimbursements for current approved farmland projects, there is an estimated remaining balance of about $682,000 for natural area projects, including $400,000 of committed funds for the Caponi Art Park project, through 2012.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606