New Easements Increase Land Conserved in Worcester County by 1,801 Acres

Snow Hill, Maryland – (August 6, 2020): With the addition of three new permanent easements this summer, Worcester County Environmental Programs (WCEP) professionals, in partnership with the Board of Public Works, have conserved an additional 1,801 acres of land in Worcester County.

 Two of the properties are part of the Dividing Creek watershed, which is located in the Dividing Creek Rural Legacy Area (RLA), and the third property is located in the Coastal Bays RLA. The total purchase cost is $1.8 million. With the purchase of these conservation easements, the lands are protected in perpetuity.

“Preserving and protecting contiguous, productive, and valuable farm and forest land in cooperation with private landowners and farmers is the objective of this program,” Planner Katherine Munson said. “This supports our local agricultural industries and helps ensure generations to come will have these limited resources available.”

Conserving these properties, which are located adjacent to other RLA protected lands, preserves productive farmland, timber resources, wildlife habitat, and natural shoreline in perpetuity, as the residential and commercial development rights are permanently removed from each property. Impervious surfaces, including poultry houses, are strictly limited. Landowners who participate in the program agree to comply with soil and water conservation and forest stewardship plans.

The Coastal Bays RLA is 45,945 acres in size and encompasses the entire Chincoteague Bay watershed, as well as a portion of the lower Pocomoke watershed. This includes sixteen miles of bay shoreline. The Dividing Creek RLA is 67,812 acres, which includes the entire Dividing Creek watershed in both Worcester and Somerset Counties. To date, WCEP has permanently protected 11,000 acres in these two RLAs with this program. Both counties have worked cooperatively with the Lower Shore Land Trust to preserve several thousand acres. 

“Both RLAs were identified as essential to protect due to their abundance of wildlife habitat, prime farmland, and rural character,” Environmental Programs Director Robert Mitchell said. “This is what is also known as ‘green infrastructure.’ Green infrastructure is every bit as important to a community’s well-being as built infrastructure. Lower taxes, improved quality of life, and stronger environmental health are a few of the benefits typically gained from preserving open space.”

Established by the State of Maryland in 1997, the RLA Program is designed to preserve large tracts of productive and valuable agricultural and forested lands that contain exceptional features. The program acts through local government or private land trust sponsors to purchase conservation easements from willing property owners in 32 designated rural areas located in every county. To date the program has permanently protected more than 103,000 acres across Maryland.

To learn more about the RLA program and its many benefits, contact WCEP at 410-632-1220.