State to spend nearly $2 million to preserve 615 acres of sensitive Eastern Shore land


November 06, 2008|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,

Maryland will spend nearly $2 million to preserve 615 acres of environmentally sensitive land on the Eastern Shore.

The Board of Public Works agreed yesterday to pay private landowners for easements to protect tracts in Wicomico, Dorchester and Cecil counties.

The state will pay nearly $710,000 to preserve 292 acres about 10 miles south of Vienna, in Wicomico County. The tract, near the mouth of Quantico Creek, includes about 150 acres of woods that provide habitat for certain songbirds and other animals that live only in deep forest.

The state has targeted the Quantico Creek watershed for protection because of its working farmland and natural resources, according to Shaun Fenlon, chief of land acquisition for the Department of Natural Resources. Less than 10 percent of its acreage has been preserved.

Another $731,000 will go to the owner of 271 acres of farmland about three miles north of Vienna, along the Nanticoke River in Dorchester County. The tract includes about 30 acres of wetlands and 40 acres of woods, Fenlon said.

The state has targeted the Nanticoke watershed for protection because it holds more than a third of all Maryland's wetlands, and biologists consider it one of the most pristine and ecologically significant river basins in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The farm preserved by the state contains habitat that may be suitable for Delmarva fox squirrels, listed by the federal government as an endangered species, Fenlon said.

The third tract, to be preserved for $458,000, is a 52-acre farm near Fair Hill in Cecil County. State officials acted to protect habitat that could contain bog turtles, another endangered species.

Under such conservation easements, property owners agree in exchange for government grants never to develop the land.The deals were negotiated under the Rural Legacy program.

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