POCOMOKE – The Department of Natural Resources recently preserved another 835 acres of sensitive land in Worcester County, bringing the total to approximately 68,000 acres.
“I would say there are certainly some counties with a lot less,” said Meredith Lathbury, Director of Land Acquisition and Planning. “It’s one of the stronger counties in terms of preservation.”
Lathbury translated the 68,000 acres of preserved land into a percentage, confirming that nearly a quarter of the county is part of the DNR preservation program.
“It’s 22.6 percent,” she said.
The most recent 835 acres were added as the final part of a 2,000-acre goal set by the DNR in an effort to preserve land around the Pocomoke River. Those 2,000 acres are made of a combined eight properties, with the latest three contributing the final 835. According to Governor Martin O’Malley, preserving the 2,000 acres will guarantee that the area remains ecologically healthy well into the future.
“Together, the eight sites protected under this effort will permanently safeguard habitat for significant living resources, preserve a magnificent viewshed along the Pocomoke, and provide increased access to the river for Maryland families,” said O’Malley in a press release.
The three newest properties (Banks, Burns and Quillen) were all donated to DNR preservation in different manners. The Quillen property was a fee simple donation, the Banks purchased out right using funding from Program Open Space, while the Burns property is a conservation easement, which means the owner remains on the land, but must keep to strict limitations on what can be done with it.
“When the state purchases or receives a donation of a conservation easement, the private land owner still owns the property,” said Lathbury, “but agrees to restrictions of development and to preserve the land. Typically, if they’re living on the property we’ll allow a residence, maybe a barn, but not much beyond that.”
When asked if there would be a possibility for commercial development on the land, Lathbury confirmed there would not.
“No Wal-Mart’s,” she said jokingly.
The three properties were obtained through Program Open Space, an initiative that has provided funding for the acquisition of 352,639 acres since 1969. Lathbury stated that the properties were selected due to their high rankings by the Green Print System.
“The important things were water quality, and forests, which all three had a lot of,” she said. “Forests are good for absorbing carbon monoxide.”
She continued to list other favorable attributes such as the wildlife habitats provided by the land as to why the DNR felt that the 835 acres needed to be preserved. One of the biggest factors though, said Lathbury, was attitude.
“We want to work with land owners who want to work with us,” she said.
Even though the 2,000-acre preservation goal set for the county has just been reached, the DNR is already thinking ahead to the next project.
“We are very interested in the area,” Lathbury said. “We hope to continue to work with the Pocomoke area in the future.”
Lathbury went on to recommend that those who would like to find out their own Green Print System rating should logon to HYPERLINK "http://www.greenprint.maryland.gov" www.greenprint.maryland.gov.