The Frontera Land Alliance has been very involved with preserving and restoring "critically important natural land resources in the El Paso region." Its members have been intimately involved in rescuing arroyos, creating a mountain to river trail, changing ordinances, preserving open space - indeed helping to create the open space policies of the City of El Paso and the stormwater master plan.
One interest that I have in the group is the possibility of creating land trusts to help preserve farmland in the City of El Paso - a city sprawling in every possible direction. If we are to have local food, we have to have local farmers.
The Treasurer of Frontera, Charlie Wakeem, told me this:
"There have been many efforts to preserve farms in the Upper and Lower Valleys.Just what is a conservation easement? It "is a legal agreement that limits the amount of development that can occur on a property. A landowner partners with a land trust organization to set up this agreement. Conservation easements are very flexible. In return for agreeing not to develop the land, a private landowner may be compensated either by a direct payment or a tax write-off."
The Frontera Land Alliance (the local land trust) has tried to educate small farmers in the area about the advantages of conservation easements. Conservation easements have been successful on working lands, both farms and ranches,
throughout the country. Problem is, our valleys are too close to a rapidly growing urban community - El Paso, TX. Developers offer them many times the value of their land so they can develop them. It's all about $$$$$$. If a farm is worth $3,000.00 per acre and the farmer is offered $30,000.00 per acre and you were the farmer just barely squeaking out a living growing corn, what would you do?"
A good source of information and strategies to preserve farm land can be found at American Farmland Trust.