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Environment

Farmland is essential to the vitality of the region and agricultural preservation will be an important element in creating regional sustainability. Increasing conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural uses not only threatens farmland, but quality of air, water, and soil for the region.

Lower density development in suburban and rural communities reduces viability of public Transportation and residents rely predominantly on single-occupancy vehicles for Transportation. Increased vehicle use reduces air quality because emissions from vehicles contribute carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, particulate matter, and greenhouse gases. In addition to finding ways to increase density and decrease distance of communities from existing infrastructure and urban centers, farmland can also play a role in improving the environment.

Techniques aimed at promoting efficient soil absorption, such as carbon sequestration and no-till farming, are known as conservation management practices. These practices can dramatically reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and improve air quality (Cook). Vegetation removes carbon dioxide from the region's atmosphere and deposits it into the soil, allowing carbon accumulation in the ground to be dramatically increased. Other conservation practices include "planting cover crops and replanting degraded lands with perennial grasses" (Dr. C.W. Rice). Additional benefits of conservation practices and carbon sequestration are "increased soil fertility, reduced erosion, improved wildlife habitat and better soil and water quality" (CASMGS). As a result of good farming practices, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced, improving air quality.

Two other key environmental benefits of farmland preservation are improved soil and water quality. Both soil and groundwater are negatively affected by loss of agricultural land and increased impervious surfaces. Increased impervious surfaces lead to increased storm-water runoff (Stormwater Authority) and removal of valuable soil layers. Lower soil quality is less efficient in the removal of pollutants which can cause contamination of groundwater sources, leaking into "springs, wells, streams, wetlands and surface water" (Cook). Farmland preservation can play an important role in protecting our natural resources, improving environment and health.

DISCUSSION QUESTION:

Are conservation management techniques, such as no-till farming, encouraged by local officials in farming communities?

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