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John Sencindiver with the Upshur County Farmland Protection Board addresses the commission Thursday.

Farmland Protection Board asks commission to support effort to establish ‘farmland of local importance’

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday approved a request from the Upshur County Farmland Protection Board to establish farmland of local importance in the county.

John Sencindiver, vice chair of the Upshur County Farmland Protection Board, said this classification will help the board determine if they will purchase a conservation easement of a farm.

According to the West Virginia Farmland Protection, an agricultural conservation easement protects farmland from development that would negatively impact is. According to WVFP, it is defined as “a set of restrictions a landowner voluntarily places on his or her property in order to preserve its agricultural values.”

“The goal of the easement is to maintain agricultural land available for production by removing the development pressures from the land,” the website adds. “Such an easement prohibits practices which would damage or interfere with the agricultural use of the land.”

Sencindiver on Thursday explained difference categorizations of farmland.

“Soils, all across the United States, are actually divided into three categories that we use and the first one is called a prime farm, the second category is statewide importance, which is not quite as good as prime farmland but good for the state,” Sencindiver said. “At the county level, is farmland of local importance. Now the prime farmland, are those soils that are identified at the national level, so if we have those soils in West Virginia, we have a prime farmland.”

He said Upshur County has four mapping units of prime farmland and 17 mapping units of 82 total are classified as soil with statewide importance.

“We don’t have any mapping units classified as farmland of local importance, so I contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service and asked, ‘why not?’ And they simply told me because we haven’t asked for it, so some agency or organization within the county has to initiate this and ask the NRCS to evaluate what we’re proposing and then approve or disapprove,” Sencindiver said.

He was told to go to various organizations for support – and that the county commission would be one of the most important.

“Braxton, Lewis, Harrison, Taylor and Webster counties all have soils identified as farmland of local importance,” Sencindiver said. “We don’t, because no one has ever needed that, but now, in our evaluations on the Protection Board, that is one of the criteria we use to determine in our point system if we can purchase an easement on that property.”

Conservation easements in agriculture can have several different purposes, according to West Virginia Farmland Protection. Specifically, the WVFP says they might include:

  • protecting for the public benefit the natural, scenic or open-space values of real property
  • ensuring availability for agricultural, forest, recreation or open-space use
  • protecting natural resources and wildlife
  • maintaining or enhancing land, air or water quality, and/or
  • preserving the historical, architectural or cultural aspects of real property.

Commissioner Sam Nolte made the motion to support the initiative and to write up a letter of support, and commissioner Kristie Tenney seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

In other county business, the commission approved correspondence from Kimbra Wachob, Upshur County Emergency Communications Center Assistant Director, requesting the employment of Jeremy Hartley, Cynthia Burwell and Sarah Davison as full-time telecommunicators, effective Oct.1. Upon approval, their rate of pay will be $11 per hour.

Prior to adjourning, the commission also approved correspondence from Doyle R. Cutright, II, Upshur County Communications Center Director, requesting the promotion of Betty DeLaura Courtney from E911 Communication Center Telecommunicator to E911 Communication Center Supervisor, effective Oct. 11. Upon approval, Ms. Courtney will receive a $1 an hour wage increase for her additional responsibilities.

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