The State of Maryland enrolled its first Rural Legacy easement in Somerset County, just north of Pocomoke City at Suffolk Farm. The easement is also the first recorded within the Dividing Creek Rural Legacy Area, which spans both Somerset and Worcester counties.
The Suffolk Farm easement covers 172 acres of field, upland forest and floodplain forest along Dividing Creek. The 15-mile creek is home to 20 rare wildlife and plant species, including the federally endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. Bald eagles are also found within the watershed, along with colorful migratory songbirds such as the Baltimore oriole and prothonotary warbler.
The property has important historical significance as well.
“The house we live in is 240 years old, built by my great-great-grandfather, Captain Whittington Polk,” said Chris Miles, who owns the farm with his parents, Norma and Bill Miles, and his wife Robin. “This property has been in the Polk-Miles family since Lord Baltimore deeded it to us in 1680. The easement will make sure this legacy is never lost.”
The Nature Conservancy in Maryland/DC, the Lower Shore Land Trust and Somerset County worked together to secure funding from Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program to conserve the property.
“Dividing Creek is located within the Pocomoke River watershed, home to the world’s northern-most native bald cypress swamp,” said Nat Williams, director of The Nature Conservancy in Maryland/DC, which has helped conserve 15 square miles within the Pocomoke watershed since 1978. “It is an ecological gem that reminds us of what John Smith would have seen nearly 400 years ago.”
The Lower Shore Land Trust holds conservation easements throughout Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, and has worked with the partners to identify interest in the area. Together with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources they will hold and monitor the easement at Suffolk Farm.
“There has been a great deal of interest from landowners in both Worcester and Somerset counties,” according to Kate Patton, director for the Lower Shore Land Trust. “We are very excited about this project – preserving natural resources and maintaining viable agriculture lands for the region is a win-win for our economy and the environment.”
Somerset County is pleased this property has been approved for an easement that will help protect the rural character of the County.
“The easement purchase and Rural Legacy Program will support the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program, which currently operates to preserve the agricultural base of Somerset County,” said Somerset County Planner Tom Lawton.
The State of Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program provides funding to preserve large contiguous tracts of land and to enhance natural resource, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection while supporting a sustainable land base for natural-resource-based industries. Enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program has to date provided over $182.7 million to preserve 62,079 acres of valuable farmland, forests and natural areas.
“This is a very important easement for the State of Maryland and Somerset County,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin. “This project will not only keep these lands safe from development, but help preserve the majestic rural appearance of Somerset County and the Eastern Shore, while contributing to cleaner water for the Chesapeake Bay and more resilient and healthy communities.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.