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Easements expand land trust's holdings, ensure donors' legacies

The state Department of Natural Resources reported recently that the Maryland Environmental Trust received three conservation easements in 2013. The easements add 211 acres to the land trust's nearly 130,000 acres of protected lands. By granting the easements, the property owners have ensured that development will not mar the beauty or interfere with the ecosystems of these pieces of southern Maryland.

In Charles County, a limited liability company granted an easement to 50 acres of farmland, woodland and pasture to MET and the Conservancy for Charles County. The land also includes a bit of Devil's Nest, a tributary of Zekiah Swamp Run.

According to the DNR website, the Zekiah Swamp is a significant ecological area in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with large tracts of unfragmented forest. The Zekiah Swamp Run snakes along 21 miles of undeveloped land and connects two properties owned by the state.

Another limited liability company and a private citizen donated the easements in St. Mary's County. The former's grant boasts farmland, woodland and wetlands. Here, too, the easement protects part of a waterway: Killpeck Creek, a Patuxent River tributary. The DNR has been working to acquire properties adjacent to the Patuxent River for a greenway project, the agency's website says. The river runs through seven counties, including Anne Arundel County. The easement adds 136 acres to the 15,000 acres the DNR already has along the Patuxent River.

While details of the first two easements have not been made public, the smallest easement -- just 25 acres -- came from a landowner with strong emotional ties to the property. The donor's parents purchased the property in the early '50s, and she has cherished its beauty ever since. The best way to protect the parcel was to donate a conservation easement to MET and the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust.

The site, most of which is forest, is part of the McIntosh Run watershed. According to the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust, the watershed is "ecologically intact," both protecting water quality and providing habitat for rare fish and wildlife.

A conservation easement is not the same as a transfer of ownership. The property owners maintain control of the land and, in fact, need not grant public access. But the easements, as we said, will protect the land's resources and natural beauty for the benefit, if not the use of the public.

Source: Southern Maryland Online, "MET Permanently Protects 211 Acres in So. Md. in 2013," Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Jan. 23, 2014 

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