LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The Lancaster County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to approve more than $2.8 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding for the Lancaster Farmland Trust and the Lancaster Conservancy, according to a release from those organizations.

The organizations will use the funds to acquire and preserve more publicly accessible natural land and to protect more farms, the release explains.

“Lancaster County’s future is at a tipping point,” said Lancaster Conservancy President Phil Wenger in the release. “Amazing towns, beautiful boroughs, and a vibrant Lancaster City all attract people to live here. Add in the proximity to major highway and rail systems, and it creates unchecked development pressure on what is a limited resource – our land. Now is the time to act to save our landscape and quality of life.”

The Conservancy was awarded $1.3 million, which will help it acquire two key parcels of land adjacent to existing county trails and parks, the release explains.

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Part of the money will be used by the Conservancy to purchase a 90-acre tract of land in Elizabeth Township adjacent to Speedwell Forge County Park and Speedwell Forge Lake. The funds will also be used to help purchase a 155-acre nature preserve in Mount Joy Township that is bisected by the county’s Conewago Recreation Trail.

The Lancaster Farmland Trust will use its $1.52 million investment to preserve 21 farms, protecting over 1,500 acres of farmland in Lancaster County. According to the release, conservation projects on the farms will include riparian buffer plantings and excluding livestock from streams.

“We continue to see the loss of farmland across the county, an ongoing concern of Lancastrians, and the agricultural sector is essential in providing clean water for all to enjoy,” said Lancaster Farmland Trust President and CEO Jeff Swinehart in the release.

“The Commissioners’ action today will advance the community’s desire to keep our beloved viewshed intact and enable our local farm community to thrive by assisting them with the resources necessary to achieve our collective clean water goals. This funding will accelerate our preservation efforts of the vital natural resources of Lancaster County that produce our food, clean our streams and rivers, and recharge our groundwater,” continued Swinehart.

The release says, “The county is expected to reduce nitrogen in waterways by 11 million pounds annually – with 80% of that to occur on our farms. Funding conservation projects on protected farms will help Lancaster reach its goals and ensures these investments are protected in perpetuity.”

The funding also helps ensure local food security by protecting agriculture, Swinehart says, the importance of which was highlighted by the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions.

“The County Commissioners looked into the future and made a critical decision to invest resources in ways that will impact generations of Lancastrians,” said Wenger and Swinehart jointly in the release.