Protection for the Chester

Conservation easement: Queen Anne's property preserved from development by joint funding.

November 17, 2001

A VALUABLE swath of Chester River wetlands, woodlands and fields will be spared from the onslaught of development in fast-growing, suburban Queen Anne's County.

Delmarva fox squirrel, waterfowl and other wildlife can continue to roam the 5,000 acres of Chino Farms under a permanent easement brokered by the nonprofit Conservation Fund.

Federal, state and county funds of $8 million are protecting the open land owned by the Harry Sears family just upriver from Chestertown.

It is the largest single easement negotiated in Maryland, one that not only protects endangered and rare species but also preserves a potentially vulnerable stretch of Chester River shoreline.

A lake that attracts bald eagles and 600 acres of seasonally flooded Delmarva bays are prominent features of this jewel of the Eastern Shore.

The property has long been platted for 175 riverfront homes (plus 600 interior lots), grandfathered from state Critical Areas laws protection. While Mr. Sears and his children, widely praised for their environmental stewardship, had no plans to convert the working farm to housing, the land remained vulnerable to development by future owners.

Securing the conservation easement advances the goal of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement to preserve some 1.4 million acres of bay watershed land from development by 2010. The property remains in the hands of the family company, apart from 30 acres donated to Queen Anne's County for a riverside park.

This is another important Chesapeake land protection deal negotiated by the Conservation Fund. The Alexandria, Va.-based organization has worked with public and private partners to safeguard more than 165,000 acres of open space in the bay watershed since 1985.

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