- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

PAPILLION, Neb. (AP) - A Sarpy County farm is shielded from future development after a deal that started seven years ago has helped turn it into the second-largest patch of protected property in Nebraska’s smallest county.

The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1PGiY8W ) reports that Ron and Carol Patterson’s 693-acre farm is permanently protected by selling conservation easements designed to shield it from incompatible land uses and excessive development.

The farm consists of four parcels owned by the couple and other families.

“Imagine what you could do with this 700 acres,” Ron Patterson said. “You’re talking lots of money and a huge development. But we couldn’t stand it.”

County officials designated 11,000 acres as the county’s most important and vulnerable environmental district that should be persevered after the Pattersons and other landowners in the bluff have advocated for preservation, but they wanted more protection.

According to the couple, they have been fighting to save the Schramm Bluffs above the Platte River on their property from development before they learned about the easements from Dave Sands, executive director of the Nebraska Land Trust. Easements are voluntary legal agreements that permanently prevent commercial and residential development of a site.

Landowners who grant conservation easements reduce the value of their land through relinquishment of development rights. According to Sands, the Pattersons donated a significant portion of their easements by selling them for less than their appraised value.

Other partners in the deal included the Papio-Missouri River and Lower Platte South Natural Resources Districts, eight foundations and several individuals.

The couple says they wanted to preserve not only the farmland, but also the woodlands, creeks and historic American Indian sites on the property.

According to Carol Patterson, “It’ll be here after we die, nice and green and welcoming to Omaha and Lincoln.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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