Farmland Preservation (LESA)

Quality of Illinois Farmland   

Illinois is blessed with vast amounts of high quality farmland. In 1997, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) estimated that Illinois contained slightly more than 20.9 million acres of Prime farmland.  Only Texas and Kansas surpassed Illinois in the number of acres of Prime farmland.  Another 5.9 million acres are defined as additional farmland of Statewide Importance, hereafter referred to Important farmland.  No unique farmland exists in Illinois.   

Farmland Protection Legislation  

It is the movement of people and changes in land use that threaten Illinois' farmland base.   Farmland is permanently converted to non-agricultural public and private uses at a continually alarming rate.   According to 1977 National Resource Inventory, figures compiled by the USDA NRCS (formerly the USDA Soil Conservation Service) indicated that Illinois farmland was converted to non-farm uses at the rate of 106,000 acres per year during the decade 1967-1977.  It was the continued magnitude of farmland conversion that brought about major action in the state with regard to protecting the agricultural industry's land base.  This major concern manifested itself in the signing of the Governor's Executive Order #4 to protect farmland in 1980 and the passage of the Farmland Preservation Act in 1982 (505 ILCS 75/1 et seq.).  

What We Ae Doing About It

Rock Island County recognizes the importance of farm land in our county.  In drafting out Comprehensive Land Use plan we looked at soil types and those of high value were designated as Agricultural Preservation. We have also adopted a Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) tool to help evaluate site specific request to change zoning classification and/or uses from agriculture. 


Our adopted LESA program works in cooperation with the Rock Island County Soil & Water Conservation District (RICSWCD). Each zoning case that comes before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) requires the applicant wishing to change zoning classification and/or uses from agriculture must have a LESA review done of the property in question. The RICSWCD has established a fee to preform this review. 


The fee is $400 for the first five acres and $15 per acre over five acres. Zoning staff will collect this fee at the time of application for any zoning action requiring a review and forward the fee to RICSWCD.