BERLIN – Vast sections of rural Worcester were preserved in perpetuity this week when state officials announced approval for the purchase of conservation easements on over 700 acres of coastal land.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on Wednesday announced the state’s Board of Public Works (BPW) approved the purchase of a conservation easement on the 500-acre-plus Bassett property prominently situated along Newport Bay. In addition, the BPW approved the purchase of a second conservation easement in Worcester County on a 209-acre parcel known as the Allen property just north of Pocomoke.
The Bassett property provides critical wildlife conservation benefits because it contains upland forest, prime agricultural fields and extensive sensitive wetlands. In partnership with state and federal conservation agencies, the property owner is also restoring and preserving vital waterfowl habitat. The easement purchase approved on Wednesday will help safeguard wildlife habitat and protect the water quality of Maryland’s coastal bays in Worcester County, which have been under the increased pressure of rapid land development.
The combined approved expenditures for the two easements in Worcester County came in at over $2 million. The BPW approved a $1.8 million expenditure for the purchase of the easement on the 500-acre Bassett property, and another $350,000 for the purchase of the easement on the Allen property near Pocomoke. Combined, the money will be well spent, according to O’Malley, for the obvious conservation benefit.
“These projects are excellent examples of how Maryland is working to leverage other fund sources to maximize the potential of our limited conservation dollars,” he said. “This land will forever protect the Pocomoke River watershed.”
The purchase of the Bassett property was made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Conservation Fund. The project is highly leveraged through a $1 million grant from the National Coastal Wetlands program. The Bassett property lies within the coastal bays focus area and has received a high ecological ranking under the state’s new Program Open Space targeting system.
“We applaud the Board of Public Works for its support of this project that will protect 1.5 miles of tidal shoreline on Newport Bay, enhance water quality and provide habitat for a variety of migratory birds, shorebirds and waterfowl,” said Bill Crouch of the Conservation Fund.