The private, nonprofit Carroll County Land Trust has launched an appeal for funds and land in South Carroll, the county's most populous and fastest-growing area, in a flier mailed last week to 13,000 homes in Eldersburg and Sykesville.
The trust is hoping it can protect farmland and open space from development.
"The fliers let people know there is such a thing as the trust, who we are and what we do," said Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, easement coordinator for the trust. "We want people to realize they have the ability to help. You don't have to own a farm. You just have to have an appreciation of wide open spaces."
Where the county purchases land easements to preserve property - as much as $2,500 an acre - the trust offers tax credits.
The value of the contribution can be taken as a deduction on state income tax. Farmers can receive a tax credit of up to $50 an acre for 15 years if they donate their easements to the land trust in perpetuity.
And it isn't as restrictive as other Carroll and state programs when it comes to the acreage that can be set aside. It will consider preserving parcels as small as 15 acres, while most others require 100 acres or more.
Bill Powel, supervisor of Carroll's land preservation program, gave as an example a Carroll County farmer who decided one Christmas to place his land in permanent preservation, in anticipation of a tax credit for 2000. Ordinarily, the process is cumbersome and time-consuming, but not for the Carroll trust.
"In three days, the trust had the easement prepared and the documents written and recorded," Powel said. "That's a lot faster than the state can work."
"The trust is doing any number of things to help us reach the goal of 100,000 acres in preservation," Powel said.
The trust, established 10 years ago, accounts for about 1,000 of the nearly 34,000 preserved acres in Carroll today, a county that is a national leader in land preservation with about one-third of its 2020 goal of 100,000 acres in permanent preservation.
Within the next 10 years, the county expects to preserve about 4,000 acres annually, and the trust will play a large role in that effort, Powel said.
"The time clock is really running on this," Cueman said. "The county is doing a good job, but the challenge is to get it done before it is too late."
Once a property is placed in preservation, it remains there in perpetuity, regardless of how often it is sold. Future owners must adhere to the terms of the trust.
"We read continuously criticisms of land use and too much development," Cueman said.
"It is unfortunate to think there is nothing anybody can do. If you enjoy Carroll County as it is and would like to see more, help by making a contribution."
A contribution of $25 makes the donor a member of the trust. Funds assist landowners interested in permanently preserving their property for agriculture and conservation.
"This is one way people can have a stake in preservation," Cueman said. Donations help defray costs of technical services, such as appraisals, surveys and recordation fees, to the donors.
"The trust can explain the easement process and assist people through it," Powel said. "It can do it faster than state agencies, too."
The trust had a similar but smaller mail campaign with 4,000 fliers mailed last year in Finksburg. It enrolled 35 members, and the contribution of several tracts of land was possible. In South Carroll, the trust has preserved a few hundred acres, including a large tract along Piney Run Reservoir.
"The most important thing is to save the farms. We will never get them back," said Carol Hackney, a trust board member whose Eldersburg farm is preserved. "I'll do anything I can to preserve what is left."
Powel added, "Any outreach by the trust is a great benefit to preservation efforts here and a savings to the county. The trust has acres of donated easements on farmland that would have cost the county money to preserve."