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County adopts plan to preserve farmland

Two years after work began, Douglas County has a plan to preserve farmland.

The Douglas County Board adopted the revised Farmland Preservation Plan as part of its Comprehensive Plan on Dec. 21.

The county's previous plan dated back to 1982.

"Some of the major elements that were tackled by the (planning) committee were to decide on the farmland preservation plan policy," said Christine Ostern, Douglas County land conservationist. She said the policy established first by the committee would guide the county's motivations, plans and preservation efforts for the next 10 years.

Ostern said the second — and a big part — of the plan was designating the preservation area of statewide importance, used for agriculture and zoned for agricultural uses. The third part of the project was to resolve conflicts among the county's preservation plan and planned uses in individual towns' comprehensive plans.

"We worked through a process with the towns to determine if they wanted to change their land use maps, use category definitions or keep what they had decided in the land use planning process," Ostern said. After learning each of the towns' decisions, she said the county went ahead and made changes to the map.

She said now that some towns made changes it altered the map from the land use maps, which will require the county to make sure the plans are consistent. The maps are similar in scale to those found in plat books.

"It was not easy to rectify all of these maps," said Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert.

Supervisor Charles Glazman said when he was growing up in Duluth, he had no idea how important agriculture was to Douglas County.

"This was a real eye-opener," Glazman said of the planning process.

The plan was developed with the help of a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, which helped offset the costs of six planning meetings and the staff and consultant costs.

"The reason we had to get this done is we were on a deadline," Liebaert said. "We're not real close, but we're close enough."

The county had until the end of the year to get the plan done to remain eligible for farm incentive programs administered by the state.

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