The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board approved administrative rules for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, finalizing a new working lands protection grant program for the state, according to a press release from the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts.

These rules were developed over the last year by the 11-member Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission. The OAHP is Oregon’s first voluntary grant program to help farmers and ranchers protect working lands and the fish and wildlife habitat they support.

The legislation authorizing the creation of the OAHP was signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown in September 2017 after receiving strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. OAHP is also supported by a broad coalition of agriculture and natural resource conservation groups.

“The diverse groups and bipartisan support for the OAHP really speaks to the importance of Oregon’s agricultural heritage for all Oregonians,” said Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), chief co-sponsor of a soon-to-be introduced bill that would provide the $10 million necessary to fund the OAHP.

The finalized OAHP rules offer a suite of tools to help farmers and ranchers pass their legacies on to the next generation. These tools include a voluntary grant match for working lands conservation easements and covenants, which help farmers and ranchers preserve working lands for agriculture and the fish and wildlife habitat they support.

If the proposed funding bill passes during this legislative session, farmers and ranchers can apply for grants to protect their working lands, enhance natural resource values and assist with succession planning. A fully funded OAHP will also make conservation projects much more competitive for a pot of matching federal funds, recently enlarged by the 2018 farm bill.

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