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Preservationists look for funding

After discussing last month’s land preservation program by Scott Everett, members of the Harrison County Farm, Forest and Open Space Preservation Task Force turned their attention to funding a volunteer program here.
‘This is an option,’ said Jim Heitkemper, who chairs the task force that was appointed by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners. ‘We couldn’t afford it if everybody wanted to do it’ because funding such a program with everyone involved in would be astronomical.
Task force members invited Everett, a regional director for the American Farmland Trust, to come here again to explain how preservation programs work in other states in hopes of alleviating some of the concerns expressed by Harrison Countians. (Everett gave a similar program in February 2004.)
‘I don’t think we changed anyone’s mind,’ said task force member Fred Uhl, in reference to opponents of such a program.
Some members said they thought the question-and-answer session by Everett may have been cut short after one skeptic at the April 14 program said that they seemed to be ‘beating a dead horse.’
Jane Gettelfinger said she realized many in the audience had the perception that what the task force is trying to accomplish ‘ a voluntary program to help preserve undeveloped land, whether it be farm, forest or open space ‘ was ‘already a done deal.’
‘Like Scott said, this is not zoning,’ Gettelfinger said.
County councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes, a member of the task force, said, ‘I think zoning will have to be a big part of this for it to work. You’ve got to designate areas that you’re going to preserve.’
‘Then it’s not voluntary,’ Gettelfinger replied.
Task force members agree that there’s more land to preserve here than just farmland.
‘I don’t want it to become farmers versus nonfarmers,’ Gettelfinger said.
C.J. Loudon said: ‘We’re not going to solve all these problems in a short period of time.’
The task force has been meeting since June. Since then, it has developed a vision, mission statement and goals, and year-end report for 2004 that included information about land fragmentation and conversion forces, strategies and options for land conservation, and identification of lands for conservation.
Everett left the task force with a list of about 10 items it can do to begin the process of addressing land preservation.
Members will further discuss ways to fund a program and will probably divide into three subcommittees at its next meeting, on May 31 at 7 p.m. at the County Annex Building, 124 S. Mulberry St., Corydon. The public is invited.