State Approves County Conservation Easement

BERLIN — Worcester County’s growing list of lands placed in perpetual conservation easement got a little bigger last week when the state’s Board of Public Works approved a proposal to permanently conserve a 33-acre tract along the Pocomoke River.

The state’s three-member Board of Public Works, which includes Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Francot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, last week approved the preservation of 33 acres of streamside forests, natural areas and wetlands in Worcester through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The easement, on property owned by the Cherrix family, will permanently protect water quality with streamside buffers along 3,300 feet of tributaries to the Pocomoke River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

As part of the approved transaction, the landowners will be donating a conservation easement on the remaining 2.25 acres on the property, which will be held by Worcester County. Worcester officials praised the CREP easement option, which is the latest in a string a similar conservation easements approved by the BPW in recent months.

“The CREP permanent easement program is a great example of government and citizens working together to improve water quality and wildlife habitat,” said Worcester County Commission President Bud Church this week. “This 29-acre easement on Old Ocean City Rd. will preserve both recently restored and older forest in perpetuity. This forest will provide wildlife habitat and a duffer to the ditches that feed Franklin Branch and, ultimately, the upper Pocomoke River.”

Board of Public Works members unanimously approved the purchase of the conservation easement in Worcester County, calling it an example of one of the many resource preservation programs the state has in place for similar easement across Maryland.

“We are fortunate to have land conservation programs that help us protect and restore Maryland’s precious natural resources,” said O’Malley. “Together, we can curb stormwater runoff, improve our water quality and preserve the legacy of our land for future generations.”

Maryland’s CREP easement option is administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and is funded through Program Open Space. CREP provides for the establishment of stream buffers, grass plantings, shrubs and trees, and the retirement of highly erodible land. In addition to providing important habitat for wildlife, all of these practices work to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.