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Preserving the Land

Strategic Conservation Plan

In January 2012 PTLT completed a Strategic Conservation Plan. PTLT mapped the lands in southern Maryland that are of highest priority to protect resources that advance its mission: Biodiversity Resources, Water Resources, Historical and Cultural Resources, Agricultural Resources, Scenic Resources and Recreation Resources. (View the map.)

Protecting Southern Maryland’s Landscape

In 2012 PTLT led a series of collaborative workshops in southern Maryland with agencies and organiations that are working to protect the landscape of the 5 counties of southern Maryland. The objective of the project is to increase the effectiveness of land protection on the region by facilitating collaboration, identifying gaps in protection and connecting land protection plans. Learn more about this project.

PTLT’s mission is to sustain the region’s biodiversity and water resources through a network of protected landscapes. The organization recognizes that forest and farmland and the region’s unique historic and scenic character are vital to a healthy economy and citizens’ sense of well-being. PTLT acquires land and conservation easements by purchase or donation. The Trust has conserved over 5,000 acres of land in perpetuity, keeping it as farm and forest to meet today’s needs and those of future generations.History

Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust was formed in 1996.

Under the Rural Legacy Program the state of Maryland makes funding available to local governments and land trusts to preserve large contiguous tracts of land through conservation easements and fee simple purchase. With St Mary’s County’s Board of Commissioners the Trust co-sponsors two Rural Legacy Areas: Huntersville (designated 1998, expanded 2006 and 2013) and Mattapany (designated 2006, expanded 2010). Over 3700 acres in the 8,896-acre Huntersville area have been protected through the Rural Legacy Program. An additional 603 acres are protected by the Maryland Agriculture Land Preservation Foundation, Maryland Environmental Trust and the County’s transfer of development rights program. About 400 acres of the 13,660 acre Mattapany area have been protected under the Rural Legacy program. An additional 2,230 acres are protected by the Maryland Agriculture Land Preservation Foundation, the County’s transfer of development rights program, and County purchase of land.  In addition to the two Rural Legacy Areas, the Trust holds conservation easements on properties with important conservation values. The Trust will continue to seek opportunities to preserve land and the rural landscape throughout the five-county southern Maryland region.

Preserving Land

(For a more detailed discussion see the factsheets published by the Land Trust Alliance and the Maryland Environmental Trust.)

What does a land trust do?

A land trust is a private, nonprofit organization that works to conserve land from development by acquiring — through purchase or acceptance of donations — property or conservation easements.  Land trusts work with landowners to achieve common goals of protecting natural areas, open space, farmland, historic sites, scenic views, and other valuable resources. The land is preserved in perpetuity. Land trusts therefore have a responsibility to take actions today that preserve those values for future generations.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement that protects the land from changes that would advsersely affect its conservation value, such as development and subdivision. The owner retains the land while relinquishing specific rights to make changes to it. The property may be transferred and sold freely, but subsequent owners are bound by the easement restrictions.  Easements can be crafted to meet the mutual objectives of the landowner and the land trust. A conservation easement does not, in itself, give public access rights to the land.  One of the most important functions of a land trust is to monitor compliance with conservation easements, making sure that the terms of the easement are met by the owner and subsequent owners, by visiting the site regularly, notifying owners if there are deviations, and if necessary enforcing the easement in court. Land trusts are also actively engaged in promoting conservation, educating the community, and helping landowners to achieve conservation objectives such as creating wildlife habitat, protecting waterways or improving woodlands.

Why do landowners preserve their property?

Preserving property from development protects its character for future generations. By placing the land, or the rights to develop it, with an organization that is solely dedicated to the objective of land preservation, a landowner reduces the risk that the property will lose its special values through development. Once open space has been built upon, it is nearly impossible for the land ever again to provide the values it does today. In addition landowners may obtain financial advantages by preserving land, whether by sale or donation. By selling land or easements to a land trust, a landowner can generate needed cash.  Donations of land or easements generate effective income by reducing tax expenses. There are federal tax benefits for donating land or conservation easements, provided the transaction meets tax code requirements. Also, by reducing the appraised value of the land, the landowner reduces future estate taxes, making it more likely that heirs will be able to afford to keep the property. In Maryland, donations of easements that include the Maryland Environmental Trust as an easement holder may qualify for state income tax credit, and may reduce the site’s value for property tax purposes. Communities also benefit economically from land preservation, which reduces costs of development such as the need for additional infrastructure as well as the loss of natural resources.

How can I learn more?

Contact the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust for more information on the benefits of preservation in our service area. For details on potential tax benefits available to you in your particular situation, consult an attorney or tax accountant who is familiar with land conservation.

Sivak Family Preserves Farm and Forest

Story and Photos by Sue Wilkerson

Not far from20160816_095744 the busy-ness and businesses of downtown Lexington Park lie 304 bucolic acres of forests and farm fields. The Sivak family has lived on this land for four generations. Michael Sivak and three brothers were coal miners in Iowa when they learned of an opportunity to purchase land in Southern Maryland. In 1912, they purchased 156 acres in Hermanville from The National Slavonic Society. Six more years in the coal mines allowed them to pay off the property and the Sivaks settled in St. Mary’s County.

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Mary Lou (Sivak) Garrison

“We’re not sure if Michael Sivak ever farmed the property,” said Lucille Sivak, the family matriarch. “His son, Paul, may have been the first to farm. My husband, Paul’s son John, grew tobacco and maintained a garden for the family table while he worked for the post office. Then, in the 70s, my eldest son, Charlie, got the idea to grow pumpkins to sell to the public.” A decade later, after John retired, the family began market farming in earnest. Since then, the Sivak Produce truck stand, on the side of Route 235, has been a destination for local fruits and vegetables. Three of John and Lucille’s surviving five children, now adults, are involved in the enterprise. Mary Lou Garrison and Alan focus on produce. Bruce grows commodity grains when he’s not running his excavating company.

Alan remembers, “Along with Michael’s original acreage, we worked part of the Owens farm next to ours after Jimmy Owens died. When it looked like it might be developed, Donna Sasscer (manager of the county Department of Economic Development Agriculture and Seafood Division) got us involved with the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust (PTLT).” Frank Allen, president of PTLT, noted, “The Owens and Sivak properties clearly aligned with PTLT goals of enhancing biodiversity and conserving agricultural and water resources.” The Trust and the Sivak family crafted an easement to meet the objectives of both parties. “We decided to keep development rights for three houses,” Alan commented. Beyond those lots, the land will remain in farm and forest. The family worked with St. Mary’s Soil Conservaion Office and the Forestry Service to continue practices that improve soil and water quality and enrich wildlife habitat.

Frank Allen described how the deal worked, “PTLT packages funds from local and state programs, which allowed us to buy the 148-acre Owens farm and sell the development rights, reducing the value of that site. Then we bought a conservation easement on the Sivak property.” In 2009, the Sivaks were able to purchase the now-affordable Owens site using proceeds from their easement sale.

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement to protect land from changes that harm its conservation value, such as development. The owner gives up certain negotiated rights to make changes but they still control the property and can transfer or sell it. Easement restrictions convey with the property. The PTLT monitors the site for compliance with the easement agreements.

This deal doubled the size of the Sivak farm and insured this sensitive land will never be sub-divided or developed. The Owens site also gave the family frontage along Route 235, allowing the Sivak’s farm wagon to move well away from highway traffic. The family also sells at the Homegrown Farmers Market. Getting involved with the Land Trust was “well worth it,” added Alan. “Since we never plan on developing.”

Sivak Produce now grows and sells three seasons of fruit and vegetables. “We always try to stay ahead of the market,” noted Alan, “by looking through catalogs and getting ideas from customers. We’re experimenting with artichokes this year.” Mary Lou added “And people can’t get enough of purple sweet potatoes.”

Property owners interested in learning more about preserving their land should contact Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Garte 410-533-0042 or Andrew@patuxent-tidewater.org or Frank Allen, president 301-862-3421 or corncribstudio@outlook.com. Anyone can support the PTLT mission by becoming a Friend. Visit [http://www.patuxent-tidewater.org](http://www.patuxent-tidewater.org) to learn more.

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