- Forterra conserved a nearly 30-acre farm along the Stillaguamish River near Arlington, Washington.
- The farm is within a critical farming and floodplain corridor.
ARLINGTON, WA — Forterra, a Washington-based nonprofit land trust, conserved a nearly 30-acre farm along the Stillaguamish River. The property, once at risk of development, will remain farmland, serving the Stillaguamish Valley community, along with fish and wildlife populations, in perpetuity.
A local Arlington family has owned the 28.8-acre farm for generations. Located on State Route 9 just outside of Arlington, the northeast corner of the farm touches Armstrong Creek and the western side abuts the Stillaguamish River, which has all five types of salmon, Bull Trout and Steelhead Trout. Several years ago, the farm was subdivided into six 5-acre lots — making it very attractive for and lucrative residential development.
“This property is in a critical farming and floodplain corridor of the Stillaguamish Valley,” said Forterra president and CEO Michelle Connor. “Conserving this property means retaining an important space for growing food and filtering water after floods. It is good for people and salmon alike.”
Development along the river over the past decade has reduced the floodplain of the Stillaguamish Valley, making the impacts of annual flooding more severe. Conserving this farm retains some of the remaining floodplain, which protects private property downstream, enhances water quality and improves habitat for salmon and other wildlife.
Conserving the property is part of a multi-year, multi-partner effort. The Sustainable Lands Strategy, a coalition made up of Snohomish County community, tribal, and state partners, spearheaded the Stillaguamish Valley Protection Initiative to unify multiple interests and maintain a viable agricultural land base. Under this direction, Forterra, the Snohomish Conservation District and Washington Farmland Trust worked together to identify high priority farmland and partner with landowners interested in the voluntary sale of development rights.
“The Breekveldts’ patience and willingness to preserve a key piece of farmland is vital to the success of our agriculture community and food supply,” said Snohomish County Agriculture Coordinator Linda Neunzig. “It provides an opportunity for the next generation of farmers to purchase land at farmland, rather than development, prices.”
The Breekveldt family and Forterra started working together in 2019 to place a conservation easement on the farm. The easement will allow the family to retain ownership of the land, but restricts certain uses of the land — such as development — in a legally binding agreement that runs with the land in perpetuity. Under the conservation easement, the family can continue to farm it, or can sell it to other farmers in the future. A young farmer is currently working the land, and the conservation easement ensures that he can continue to do so. Forterra will hold and monitor the conservation easement.
“We are deeply committed to fostering the next generation of Stillaguamish Valley farmers,” said Hank Breekveldt, “We’re happy that our family land will remain a farm forever.”
The easement also has flexibility that will allow the land to grow the traditional foods and plants of the Stillaguamish Tribe, should that path be chosen by a future landowner. “It is very important to support the lands that support our food source, whether it is agricultural or tribal traditional foods such as salmon and shellfish,” said the Stillaguamish Tribe’s Chairman Shawn Yanity. “Protecting our collective food sources and culture from development or flood damage is vital for the people of Stillaguamish Tribe and people of the Stillaguamish valley. No matter the `crop,’ this land will produce food in perpetuity!”
The Washington State Conservation Commission and the Department of Ecology’s Floodplain by Design grant program provided crucial funding for the purchase of the farm’s development rights. Forterra could not have placed this conservation easement on the farm without the assistance of the Snohomish Conservation District, the Stillaguamish Tribe and the deep commitment of the Breekveldt family.
Forterra has facilitated nearly 500 conservation transactions in the past 30 years and has conserved more than 250,000 acres. Forterra monitors more than 100 easement properties each year to ensure the original intentions are upheld.
Managing Director of Media Relations and Storytelling, Forterra
Forterra is a Washington-based nonprofit that enhances, supports, and stewards the region’s most precious resources — its communities and its ecosystems. Forterra conserves and stewards land, develops innovative policies, and supports sustainable rural and urban development. In its 30-year history, Forterra has helped conserve more than 250,000 acres. Its work stretches from the farmlands and river canyons of Yakima to the estuaries and forests of Washington’s coastline, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, and towns. Visit www.forterra.org.