BERLIN – State officials announced last week the approval of a conservation easement on a vast tract of land in Worcester fronting the Chincoteague Bay considered a lynchpin property of sorts, connecting a much larger area of the county now permanently protected.
Gov. Martin O’Malley announced the state’s Board of Public Works had approved a perpetual conservation easement on the 228-acre Phillips Farm along the Chincoteague Bay south of Public Landing through the Rural Legacy Program, which will protect valuable agricultural and forested land and implement significant water quality preservation measures in the coastal bays watershed. The acquisition will also permanently preserve 3,379 feet of riparian buffers. The County Commissioners will hold the conservation easement.
The 228-acre Phillips Farm is adjacent to another huge tract of Worcester County already protected by Rural Legacy conservation easements, bringing the total number of acres protected in the immediate area to around 6,500 acres. When the nearby E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area is added to the equation, the total acreage in the rural area of the county near the Chincoteague Bay totals nearly 10,000 acres.
“Maryland Rural Legacy areas preserve the natural beauty of our state and contribute to improved water quality, forest conservation and wildlife protection, all important components of our Smart, Green and Growing initiative,” said O’Malley, who sits on the three-member Board of Public Works. “Under this important program, I am proud that these vital natural resources will be protected for future generations of Marylanders to enjoy and explore.”
Last week’s announcement came just days before the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), along with its state and federal partners, released a report card on the health of the coastal bays, giving the estuaries a grade of C+ on several important factors. Naturally, placing 228 acres of rural land fronting the Chincoteague Bay in a perpetual conservation easement continues to be a step in the right direction, according to MCBP Executive Director Dave Wilson.
“Obviously, we have water quality issues in the Chincoteague Bay and this will absolutely help with that,” he said. “We’re obviously very pleased. This is a pretty piece of property and that part of the county is just gorgeous.”
Enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, the Rural Legacy Program has provided over $182.7 million to preserve 62,079 acres