Developer donates marsh, woods parcel to Humane Society Back River Neck site is group's first wildlife sanctuary in (P Maryland

January 13, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County developer has donated nearly 14 acres of marsh and woodland on Back River Neck to the Humane Society of the United States for the animal protection group's first wildlife sanctuary in Maryland -- a gift preservationists hope will inspire others to protect their land.

John F. Owings Jr. of Reisterstown gave the land straddling Wildwood Beach Road to provide a habitat for animals and birds, especially ospreys, herons, ducks and shore birds.

"I thought it would help pay back what developers have done to the land," said Owings, a commercial and residential land developer.

Owings, who has a summer home on the peninsula, said he purchased 20 acres next door in September because he wanted extend his yard. But he decided to donate most of the land because he supports the Humane Society's objectives and because the donation provided tax benefits.

The Humane Society's Wildlife Land Trust manages 3,000 acres in 15 states, but the gift is the first in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, said Patrick E. Preston Jr., a lawyer for the trust.

While the parcel is small, "It clearly is important to the local ecosystem," Preston said. "It is our hope that this one acquisition may help get some more conservation going."

Land preservationists are working to create a conservation district on the Back River Neck peninsula under the state's new Rural Legacy Program -- a program designed to preserve land that might not be saved by other conservation programs.

That effort seeks to save 50,000 to 75,000 acres in the next five years throughout the state by purchasing development rights from property owners in selected land-preservation areas.

Jack U. Mowll, chairman of the Back River Neck Land Conservation Committee, who is working to establish the Rural Legacy district, said the peninsula has 2,400 acres that should be protected because the woods and marshlands are a buffer between the densely developed areas of Essex and Middle River and the Chesapeake Bay.

"Hopefully, this will give them a toehold to acquire more land," Owings said.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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