By Naval District Washington Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (January 21, 2011) Naval District Washington and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have formed a win-win-win partnership with conservation groups which benefits the environment, the Navy's Atlantic Test Range and residents of Maryland's Eastern Shore.
In Sept. 2009, the partnership formalized an Encroachment Protection Agreement between the Department of the Navy, the State of Maryland, The Nature Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund, which facilitated the Oct. 2010 purchase of the first of many easements along the Nanticoke River.
The easement limits residential and commercial development on the property while allowing agricultural uses which in turn will help protect the rural landscape, and prevent noise conflicts.
"Having the Navy join our team is a tremendous boost to conservation, and we are thrilled that protecting the Nanticoke River's natural treasures can be complementary to our national security interests," said Liz Zucker, The Nature Conservancy in Maryland's Eastern Shore Project Director.
Naval Air Station Patuxent River manages and operates aircraft in the Atlantic Test Range (ATR) Inner Range, high above the Nanticoke River.
The Atlantic Test Ranges (ATR) provides fully instrumented and integrated test and training ranges for full-service support of cradle-to-grave testing and training. This support includes research, development, test and evaluation, and training of aircraft/aircrew and integrated avionics and mission systems.
Five active runways, the longest being 11,809 feet, provide a gateway to more than 2,100 square miles of restricted airspace from surface up to 85,000 feet in the Atlantic Test Range Inner Range operating area. Safe, controlled air-to-surface firing and weapon separation testing can be conducted in these areas.
The Agreement and its easements will protect land that contains habitat for Delmarva fox squirrels, forest interior dwelling species, and breeding and stopover habitat for migratory songbirds and raptors.
The Nanticoke River with its vast stretches and wildlife is not only environmentally significant but historically relevant, as Navy explorer, Captain John Smith of Jamestown, sailed the river 400 years ago.
The initial conservation easement was granted by the Sellers family and covers 195 acres in Dorchester County's Nanticoke Rural Legacy Area. This and other easements, also planned for purchase as part of the Navy's Encroachment Protection Agreement with DNR, will protect valuable farm and forest land by extinguishing numerous future development lots while supporting sustainable resource-based industries in Dorchester County.
The easements will be held by the DNR and the U. S. Department of the Navy.
The Nanticoke Rural Legacy Area totals 21,250 acres of farm and forest land, of which 11,765 acres are currently protected.