Easement to Protect Nearly 300 Acres Along Severn River (MD)

Crownsville, MD: The Trust for Public Land signed a contract today giving the organization the ability to purchase a conservation easement on 292 acres of land along the Severn River on Hopkins Creek. The protection of this land will add to the “Green Cathedral”-a group of open space properties along the Severn River. The tract is the largest undeveloped forested parcel on the Severn River and its conservation will be a triumph for area residents, the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The bulk of the funding for the purchase comes from the federal Forest Legacy Program, administered by U.S. Agriculture Under Secretary Jim Lyons. These funds were supported by the Maryland congressional delegation of Senators Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Wayne Gilchrest (D-MD-1st ). A consortium of private donors contributed the remaining funds.

The proposed easement in effect sells off a significant portion of the land’s value and significantly reduces the density of development allowed on the land. Future development will be limited to a total of eleven single-family homes-one less than currently stand on the property. According to the easement, the landowners (current and future) commit to “…maintain permanently the forests on the property by managing the property and the forests in an ecologically sound manner,” protect the shoreline, the nontidal wetlands and forested stream corridors, and preserve the rural character of the area by limiting development and protecting the pasture along Sherwood Forest Road.

“The Trust for Public Land is pleased to be working toward conserving a magnificent parcel like this,” said Julie Enger, TPL project manager for Maryland, “especially because it means so much to this community.”

The Trust expects to complete the transaction in the spring of 2001. The easement will be transferred to and managed in perpetuity by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, which applied for a Forest Legacy Program grant to support this protection effort.

“The Clinton Administration has committed considerable resources to preserving the important ecological values of unique areas such as Green Cathedral,” said Jim Lyons, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “Protecting this important area also has a great personal significance to me because I live not far from here and now my children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy this special place for many years to come.”

The land is located adjacent to Brewer Pond, a fish spawning and waterfowl nesting area that is one of the most significant wildlife habitats in the Severn River watershed. The Severn River Land Trust (SRLT), a non-profit citizen-based conservation organization, identified this parcel of land more than a decade ago as a significant environmental site on the river.

SRLT negotiated the state’s acquisition of the Brewer Pond site in 1998 and partnered with the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization in 1999 to secure the Sahlin estate property. TPL negotiated the terms of the deal announced today, and helped raise the funds necessary for the purchase of the easement. TPL has been the principle liaison with the estate of Oscar Sahlin and has been working with the county and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

After the death of owner Oscar Sahlin in 1998, the land was slated for the development of a subdivision. Appreciating the community benefit of preserving the forested vista, representatives of the estate signed a new contract today with TPL. The agreement was made in cooperation with Winchester Homes.

The features that make this property so desirable for conservation also made it appealing for development. Until today, Winchester Homes, Inc. held a contract to develop the property. Realizing the community desire to preserve the property, Winchester agreed to terminate their development contract if TPL could get a conservation contract signed. Winchester Homes retains the right to develop the 21-acre parcel across Sherwood Forest Road, per their contract with the estate.

According to Enger, Winchester Homes made every effort to ensure that the true interests of the community were realized. “By terminating their right to purchase and develop this property, Winchester Homes acknowledged the importance of open space for the protection of habitat and water quality. It is very progressive for a developer to understand that open space actually enhances developed residential areas.”

“The goal of Winchester Homes as a good citizen is to meet the needs of communities,” said Thomas K. Bourke, vice president of land acquisitions for Winchester Homes. “We appreciate the role played by the Trust for Public Land and are pleased to have been able to work with a conservation group that also understands the pressures facing developers.”

Residents of nearby Sherwood Forest are especially pleased with the agreement. “The Trust for Public Land, working with Winchester homes and the Sahlin family has preserved the fingerprint of God on the Severn River,” said William Moulden. “We imagined a living legacy for all generations to come, and the Trust for Public Land made it so.”

Governor Parris N. Glendening, who acknowledged the importance of the estate a year ago when the state purchased Brewer Pond, sees the preservation agreement as a key win for land preservation and the protection of water quality of the Severn River.

“This property comprises the largest farm and forest land remaining along the Severn River,” said Governor Glendening. “This purchase will protect its rolling farm land, riparian forests and non-tidal wetlands, benefiting wildlife and the area’s water quality for future generations.”

Cliff Andrew, president of the Severn River Land Trust board of directors sees the agreement as a win-win situation. “The signing of this new contract represents significant progress for conservation along this stretch of the Severn River. We have strived for this day for years, and are pleased that the Trust for Public Land lent its expertise to conserve this significant resource.”

“The pristine nature of the Severn River-Green Cathedral land makes it a natural focus of the community’s protection efforts,” said Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD). “Happily, critical local, state and federal partnerships came together to ensure the funding needed to secure this property.”

“Great things happen when people communicate, coordinate, and cooperate,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). “The funding secured by public and private efforts will enable the Trust for Public Land to conserve the natural beauty of the almost 300 acres of land along the Severn River and allow the wildlife and the community to enjoy the area for many years to come.”

“Protecting this portion of the Green Cathedral from the impacts of development has been an essential goal for the community. I’m glad I had an opportunity to support funding for this critical conservation effort,” said Representative Wayne Gilchrest (D-MD-1st).

“We appreciate the support that our neighbors have shown for this project and are pleased to be able to help permanently protect this land for future generations by managing it in an environmentally responsible way,” said Carolyn Robbins, executor of the Sahlin estate.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for public use to improve the quality of life in communities and protect natural and historic resources for future generations. Working with private landowners, communities, and government agencies,TPL has helped protect nearly 1,700 special places around the country. In Maryland, TPL has protected sites totaling almost 2,000 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.

Founded in 1972, and headquartered in San Francisco, TPL specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance, and law to complete land transactions. To date, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres of land nationwide valued at over $1.8 billion. For more information on this project and other land conservation initiatives, visit www.tpl.org. Contributions toward the protection of this estate can be made to the Trust for Public Land at 666 Broadway- 9th Floor, New York, NY 10012