- What is ACE?
- Who is on the ACE commission?
- What does the ACE commission do?
- How does ACE preserve family farms?
- What is a conservation easement?
- How do conservation easements help farmland owners?
- Why is agriculture in McHenry County important?
- Is ACE trying to stop development in McHenry County?
- Will I be required to sell a conservation easement to the county?
- How can I stay informed of ACE activities?
- Does ACE accept donations?
- What are the program's qualifying criteria for conservation easement purchase?
What is ACE?
ACE is short for McHenry County Agricultural Conservation Easement and Farmland Protection Program. The mission of ACE, which was created by the McHenry County Board in 2006, is to preserve the agricultural heritage, landscape and economy of McHenry County through a viable farmland protection program.
Who is on the ACE commission?
Harry Alten Jr., Chairman (term expires Jan. 2012)
Brian Jenkner, Vice-Chairman (Jan. 2011)
Rob LaPorta, Treasurer (Jan. 2011)
Virginia Peschke, Secretary (Jan. 2011)
Ken Bauman (Jan. 2012)
Lenore Beyer-Clow (Jan. 2012)
Barb Wheeler, Natural and Environmental Resources Committee representative
Anthony Martin, McHenry County Farm Bureau representative
Ken Koehler, Chairman of the County Board
McHenry County Conservation District representative
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service representative
Dennis Sandquist, Director of the Department of Planning and Development
What does the ACE commission do?
The commission supervises the ACE program in an advisory capacity to the Natural and Environmental Resources Committee of the County Board. This includes coordinating preservation efforts of public and private agencies; gauge the interest of landowners to donate or sell their property; recommended qualifying criteria for acquisition of land; recommend changes to the ACE program and integration with other county plans and programs; conduct public meetings or hearings as needed; and prepare, review and recommend state or federal grant applications.
How does ACE preserve family farms?
The ACE program seeks to acquire conservation easements on McHenry County lands either through purchase or donation by landowners. The county can only acquire easements from landowners who voluntarily elect to participate in the program.
What is a conservation easement?
This is a non-possessory interest in real property whereby a limitation or obligation is imposed on the land. In other words, it is a property right--in this case, the right to develop or build nonagricultural structures--that is extinguished through sale or donation to the county or a nonprofit conservation organization while possession of the land and all other rights and uses are retained by the owner. Land with a conservation easement can never be developed.
How do conservation easements help farmland owners?
An owner of farmland can sell or donate an easement which may provide some federal or state tax benefits. A farmland owner is free to sell land with a conservation easement at any time.
Why is agriculture in McHenry County important?
Agriculture provides many benefits including: producing nourishing food; facilitating groundwater recharge; providing habitat and corridors for wildlife; contributing to the local economy through jobs and tax revenues while using fewer tax dollars than residential uses; adding to the county's valued rural character; preserving the county's desirable historical, architectural, environmental, and cultural resources; and continuing the traditions of family farming upon which the county was founded.
Is ACE trying to stop development in McHenry County?
No. The goal of the ACE program is to provide McHenry County farmland owners with new options for the preservation of their farms. ACE believes that future development in the county should be in an orderly and sustainable manor whereby farmers are not unduly pressured into selling their land to developers if they wish it to remain in farming for future generations.
Will I be required to sell a conservation easement to the county?
No. The ACE program is completely voluntary.
How can I stay informed of ACE activities?
- Sign up to receive emails on upcoming meetings and events
- Check the County Board calendar for monthly meeting times and agendas
- Email us if you have any questions or comments
Does ACE accept donations?
Yes. Please contact us if you are interested in donating a conservation easement. You can also find out more by looking at our brochure.
What are the program's qualifying criteria for conservation easement purchase?
(Please note: At this time, ACE does not have funds available for the purchase of conservation easements.)
A United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service tier 3 Resource Management Plan must be applied to the property as a condition of the easement. This will assure the continued agricultural productivity and environmental integrity of the property.
The Agriculture Conservation Easement and Farmland Protection Commissioners recognize the importance of the Parcel Selection process. The Commissioners decided the process must include the following basic parameters.
- The initial application must be simple and non-binding.
- All owners of privately-held agricultural land within the County must be allowed to apply for the program.
- The process of selecting parcels for conservation easements and those parcels selected must be compatible with the Federal Farmland and Ranch Protection Program.
- The factors of consideration must be consistent, verifiable and open to public scrutiny.
- Applicants may reapply in a subsequent year if their parcel offering is unfunded.
- Parcels will be ranked based upon their qualitative traits and per acre easement cost to the County.
- The yearly allocation of County funds will be limited by a dollar amount multiplied by the number of acres offered in a given year.
- Parcels will be funded by rank until the yearly allocation of funds is expended.
The qualifying criteria was developed based on the commissions understanding of agriculture and its relationship to the surrounding community. The qualifying criteria consists of fifteen questions comprising a 300 total point value system. The point system provides an objective evaluation of the parcels offered in a specific year. It was determined that a parcel must score a minimum of 150 points for continued consideration. Some of the questions were designed to allow applicants to improve their parcels score in subsequent years as conditions changed, thus providing some flexibility to the process.
A selection matrix was developed to objectively rank the parcels offered in a specific year based upon their Qualifying Criteria Score and the County's per acre cost of the easement. This matrix includes basic information about the parcels being evaluated, considers alternative sources of funding, donation values and the necessary formulas to priority rank the parcels. The format is expandable based upon the number of applicants and alternative sources of funding available.
Applicants are encouraged to try to improve their qualitative trait score, consider donations and accept alternative sources of funding; all in an effort to improve their probability of selection. The end result is the preservation of the most agriculturally and ecologically sensitive parcels offered; with the greatest possible economic efficiency for the County.