Conservation Easement Program

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Whatcom County's population has increased significantly in the last two decades, resulting in an increased loss of our working lands. In order to protect our vital farmland, Whatcom County established the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program in 2002. The program expanded in 2018 to also protect working forestland and important ecosystem areas as secondary goals, with the primary focus on farmland preservation. In 2021, the program changed names to be the Whatcom County Conservation Easement Program (CEP).

The CEP is a voluntary program that compensates property owners for the value of their unused development rights and protects the land through the placement of permanent conservation easements. Conservation easements are perpetual contract agreements where a landowner agrees to protect the values present within the property, such as working farmlands, working forestlands, and important ecosystems. By protecting these areas we are protecting local economies and local ecosystems for current and future generations.

Since the program's inception, over 1,500 acres throughout Whatcom County have been protected.
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The program is guided by an oversight committee composed of farmers, local citizens and business people. As we continue to protect valuable natural areas and working lands, the oversight committee focuses on six conservation goals (see below). These goals serve as a framework to ensure the program is focused on protecting lands that provide the greatest community and public benefit.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the Conservation Easement Program, please contact us today to learn more.

Whatcom PDRP Icons

  • Agriculture - Protect agricultural lands to sustain locally-owned farms, production of healthy foods, and the rural character of our community.
  • Forests - Protect forests to promote clean air and water, enhanced wildlife habitat, and working forest economies.
  • Ecosystems - Protect natural ecosystems to ensure the diversity of life and support essential habitats.
  • Water - Protect water resources to secure safe drinking water and important fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Climate - Protect farms, open space and natural areas to prevent them from being adversely impacted by climate change.
  • Open Space - Protect open spaces to preserve cultural and historic resources, scenic vistas, and recreation opportunities.

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The Conservation Easement Program Oversight Committee provides oversight and evaluation for the Whatcom County Conservation Easement Program, which will enhance the protection of the county's farmland, enhance the long-term viability of agricultural enterprises within the county and provide public benefit by retaining properties in permanent resource use. This committee's role is to advise the Council in the selection of eligible lands offered for Conservation Easement acquisition.

There are 7 members of the Conservation Easement Program Oversight Committee:

  • 3 Whatcom County farmers
  • 1 citizen (non-farmer) from incorporated city
  • 1 citizen (non-farmer) from unincorporated county
  • 1 individual representing farm-supporting businesses
  • 1 individual with real estate experience


PDR Text-Authority 

  • Date of formation: December 8, 2002
  • Resolution # 2001-049 In support of expenditures from Conservation Futures Fund to acquire property interests in agricultural land for strategic conservation purposes.
  • Ordinance # 2002-054 Establishing an agricultural purchase of development rights program and oversight committee.
  • Ordinance # 2018-065 Expanding the Purchase of Development Rights Program to include the protection of working forests and important ecological areas.
  • Ordinance # 2021-037 Changing the Purchase of Development Rights Program name to the Whatcom County Conservation Easement Program.
Date Agenda Minutes
October 22, 2021 Agenda Minutes
September 24, 2021 Agenda Minutes
August 27, 2021 Cancelled  
July 23, 2021 Agenda Minutes
June 25, 2021 Agenda Minutes
June 4, 2021 Agenda Minutes
April 23, 2021 Agenda Minutes
March 26, 2021 Agenda Minutes
February 26, 2021 Agenda Minutes
January 22, 2021 Agenda Minutes
December 4, 2020 Agenda Minutes
October 23, 2020 Agenda Minutes
September 25, 2020 Agenda Minutes
Paul Schissler, chair Heather MacKay-Brown
Sean D'Agnolo, vice-chair Burr Neely
Jen Glyzinski VACANT