300 Acres on Severn River Now Protected (MD)

Crownsville, MD, 12/3/2001: Communities across the country have recognized the importance of open space to quality of life, but residents just outside of Annapolis, Md. have gone one step farther, putting their wallets on the line to protect nearly 300 acres along the Severn River in Crownsville, part of the area known locally as the “Green Cathedral”.

Residents donated approximately $200,000 to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, which raised additional funds and negotiated the purchase of the property’s development rights to ensure the land’s permanent protection as open space. The Trust also worked with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service to help secure a $650,000 grant from the federal Forest Legacy Program to make up the rest of the $1.55 million price. The federal funding was supported by the Maryland congressional delegation of Senators Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD-1st).

“Protection of the estate of Oscar Sahlin is a triumph for area residents, the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Julie Enger, TPL project manager for Maryland. “The land means a great deal to the community, whose members came together to ensure its protection.”

The deal—three years in the making—protected the largest undeveloped forested parcel on the Severn River. The easement includes a significant portion of the land’s value and limits future development to a total of eleven single-family homes (one less than currently stand on the property). The easement permanently protects forests, shoreline, wetlands and stream corridors on the property.

The Severn River Land Trust (SRLT), a nonprofit citizen-based conservation organization, identified the Sahlin estate more than a decade ago as a significant environmental site on the river and a priority for conservation. The group negotiated the state’s acquisition of adjacent Brewer Pond in 1998 and partnered with the Trust for Public Land in 1999 to secure the property of the Sahlin estate.

The features that make this property so desirable for conservation also made it appealing for development. In 1999, Winchester Homes, Inc. signed a contract with the estate of Oscar Sahlin to develop the 319-acre parcel. Realizing the community’s intense desire to preserve the Sahlin Farm, Winchester terminated its development contract on 298 acres, making way for TPL to purchase a conservation easement on the property. Winchester Homes retains the right to develop the 21-acre parcel across Sherwood Forest Road, per their contract with the estate.

The Trust negotiated the terms of the deal and helped raise the funds necessary for the purchase of the easement. TPL was the principle liaison with the estate of Oscar Sahlin and worked with the State Department of Natural Resources, Anne Arundel County, the Severn River Land Trust and the community to ensure the protection of this prize property.

“Preserving our State’s natural resources for future generations has been and remains one of our top priorities,” said Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening. “Working together with our many partners to save the Green Cathedral demonstrates the sense of urgency and the commitment Marylanders have to permanently protect our resources and open space. Once land like this is lost to bulldozers and development, it can never be recovered.”

On September 25, 2001, the easement was transferred to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, which applied for a Forest Legacy Program grant to support the protection effort. This is the first Federal Forest Legacy Program project in Maryland. The program, administered by the U.S. Forest Service, was created by Congress in 1990 to identify and protect environmentally important private forestlands threatened with conversion to non-forest uses—such as subdivision for residential or commercial development.

“The U.S. Forest Service is very pleased to have provided a Forest Legacy grant to the state of Maryland for the protection of forested properties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Dale Bosworth, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. “The Green Cathedral project is an example of the best kind of community-based partnership among federal, state and local groups to promote water quality and conserve forests for future generations. We look forward to future cooperative efforts.”

“Winchester Homes in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Sahlin family have done nothing less than preserve the fingerprint of God on the Severn River. Their living legacy to all generations to come is wholeheartedly appreciated and will forever be remembered,” said William Moulden, chairman of the Committee to Preserve the Sahlin Farm.

“The Severn River Land Trust is grateful to the Sahlin family and neighboring residents who worked so diligently to preserve this land. The location of this property adjacent to the Brewer Pond conservation easement will make a huge difference is preserving the ecological integrity and quality of life of the Green Cathedral,” said Sandra Parks-Trusz, Executive Director of the Severn River Land Trust.

“Our family has been a steward of this property for more than a century and we are pleased that through the efforts of our neighbors, TPL, Winchester, the County and the State, it will continue to be managed in an ecologically responsible manner,” said Carolyn Robbins, executor of the Sahlin estate.

“This announcement represents a significant step in protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, preserving greenspace, and promoting further land conservation efforts,” said Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD).

“I am pleased to support funding for this worthwhile project. Protecting open space such as this is one of my highest priorities and this is a terrific accomplishment,” said Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD-1st).

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for public use to improve the quality of life in communities and protect natural and historic resources for future generations. TPL specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, conservation finance, and law to complete land transactions. TPL has helped protect more than 1.3 million acres across the country. In Maryland, TPL has protected nearly 3,000 acres, including Holland Point Park on Herring Bay in Anne Arundel County, the Breezy Point bay front park in Calvert County, and a 515-acre addition to the Beltwoods wildlands in Prince Georges County.

Keeping Our Commitment: Preserving Land in the Chesapeake Watershed, a historic report by TPL and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, documents the need to protect 1.1 million acres of the watershed by 2010 in order to meet the goal set out in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement signed by the Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia in June 2000.