LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) – Lancaster County has 100,000 acres of preserved land. However, what does land preservation really mean?

“We are restricting that property for a particular use, and in this case, agriculture is that use,” the vice president of land protection for Lancaster Farmland Trust Jeb Musser said.

How long does the preservation last?

“When we preserve a farm, we are preserving it forever,” Musser said.

More farms in Lancaster are getting their land preserved in order to shield them from future development. For those farm owners, this has incredible weight.

“99 percent of the farms in Lancaster County are family farms,” Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons said. “A lot of times those families want to continue to hand it down to the next generation. So they are excited to preserve their farms.”

To this point in 2023, county commissioners have approved more than 1,300 acres for preservation across 15 farms.

“Lancaster County has some of the best farmland in the nation,” Parsons said. “Obviously we want to preserve that and keep it in productive agriculture forever.”

What if landowners don’t want to commit to forever? Back in the 1970s and 80s there were term easements, allowing farmers the flexibility to sell after a 20-25 year contract.

Those have become nearly extinct. To Jeb Musser’s understanding, all of Lancaster County’s easements are now set in stone forever.

“When it’s preserved it is very difficult, if not impossible, to remove a farm from preservation,” Musser said.