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Maryland Environmental Trust Protects 2,361 acres in 2013

Protected property along Slaughter Creek, Dorchester County

Protected property along Slaughter Creek, Dorchester County

The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) accepted 25 conservation easements last year to protect 2,361 acres of scenic open space, forest and farmland in 15 counties across the State. Most easements were donated to MET in coordination with a local or regional land trust, and will protect the natural, historic and scenic resources on these lands for generations to come.

In 2013 MET protected 2.8 miles of Scenic Byway; 921 acres of forest; 892 acres of prime farmland soils; 10.4 miles of streams and shoreline; and 1,314 acres of Targeted Ecological Area, which are lands identified as a conservation priority by DNR.

The total acreage preserved through perpetual conservation easements by county in 2013 was: 95 acres in Anne Arundel; 154 in Baltimore; 32 in Carroll; 49 in Caroline; 50 in Charles; 88 in Dorchester; 6 in Frederick; 29 in Garrett; 27 in Howard; 696 in Kent; 5 in Queen Anne’s; 161 in St. Mary’s; 131 in Talbot; 1 in Washington; and 37 in Worcester. Below are a few examples of these land conservation projects.

In Baltimore County, MET accepted a donated easement on Hybridoma Organic Fruit Farm in Long Green Valley. A substantial portion of the 46-acre farm is dedicated to fruit production, featuring “pick-your-own” berries during peak season along with an educational mission to demonstrate sustainable land practices. “This year’s farm’s mission has been expanded to encompass childhood education on solar energy production, honeybee husbandry and honey production, organic herb and spice cultivation and medicinal lavender production” said landowner Robert Hamilton. The easement protects crop land from intensive development as well as water quality on two tributaries of the Gunpowder River. Hybridoma is located within the Long Green Valley Rural Legacy Area.

MET, together with Land Preservation Trust, now hold a 34-acre easement on a portion George Murnaghan’s property in Baltimore County. The area consists of crop and forest land within the Worthington Valley National Register Historic District and Piney Run Rural Legacy Area, and scenic views along Piney Grove Road. This easement either adjoins or is near hundreds of acres of protected land.

Also in Baltimore County, landowner Marvin Tenberg amended an existing 20-acre easement, rich in forestland, to protect three additional acres. “In 1987 there were large open areas and I did not envision that virtually all of the open space would be developed. Increased development since then has made my original decision to protect this land very fortunate,” said Tenberg. The added acres will protect more treecover, as well as water quality along Beaverdam Run and an unnamed tributary.

In Carroll County, MET and the Carroll County Land Trust accepted a 32-acre easement from David Caple along Green Mill Road. Much of the property is pasture, with the agreement protecting scenic views and the water quality of unnamed tributaries to Beaver Run, which drains into Liberty Reservoir.

In Howard County, Charles Steggerda donated a 27-acre easement to MET and the Howard County Conservancy. The primarily forested property is located in the vicinity of several hundred acres of existing protected land. The region’s water quality, interior forest habitat and scenic views are now permanently protected.

In Kent County, Linda Leigh donated an easement to MET and Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) on a forested and agricultural tract along the Sassafras River. The 1,386 feet of frontage on the Sassafras River provides boaters with views of dramatic cliff faces topped with forest, which is also home to the endangered Puritan tiger beetle.

Also in Kent County, MET worked with federal, State and local partners to purchase a 421-acre conservation easement on farmland along the Chesapeake Country National Scenic Byway. The land was purchased using federal transportation funds set aside for the protection of scenic views along the Byway. MET, in conjunction with ESLC, Kent County and the Maryland State Highway Administration have been working cooperatively to permanently safeguard key properties along the Byway and maintain the scenic, rural and agricultural character of this landscape.

In Queen Anne’s County, the county government partnered with MET and ESLC to protect an urban property with green space for the creation of a public park in the town of Stevensville. In the future, the park could possibly serve as the landing site for a pedestrian bridge over U.S. Route 50, connecting the two sides of The Cross Island Trail.

In Talbot County, 89 acres of agricultural land, 41 acres of woodland and a portion of Beaverdam Branch are now protected thanks to a generous landowner working with MET and ESLC. This property is adjacent to a large block of land protected by conservation easements.

In Dorchester County, MET joined forces with three landowners to protect 660 acres of wetland, forestland and farmland. Two of the properties are along Parsons and Slaughter creeks, and near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The other is located along U.S. Route 50 and provides sweeping views of open farmland amidst urban highway congestion.

MET is one of several land protection programs in Maryland working with residents to preserve privately-owned, scenic open space, forest and farmland. To participate, landowners voluntarily agree to perpetual conservation easements on their property that will protect the natural, historic and scenic resources now and for generations to come. The State and federal government have enacted a number of financial incentives to encourage landowners to permanently protect their property and resources. Heirs of easement donors may also see a substantial reduction in federal and State estate taxes since donated easements tend reduce a protected land’s value as a part of the overall estate.

The Maryland Environmental Trust was established in 1967 by the Maryland General Assembly as a charitable organization that serves as the statewide land trust. MET currently holds more than 1,070 easements totaling approximately 131,500 acres. Governed by a citizen board of trustees, MET is affiliated with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and promotes the permanent protection of land through its Conservation Easement, Stewardship and Land Trust Assistance programs. MET also provides grants to environmental education projects through the Keep Maryland Beautiful program.