In the following question-and-answer session, Greenwell digs deeper into her views on conservation and how she expects to apply them for PTLT.
Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust: Where did you develop your environmental ethic?
Abby Greenwell: When I was a child, I spent every waking moment in the woods. I've spent so much of my time on wooded trails, covered in mud from wetland streams and creeks, and going to the river’s edge to play. I never considered that one day I would be responsible for helping to preserve the environment I loved so much.
In the last 10 years my husband and I inherited a piece of property in Leonardtown. It's 17 acres of Southern Maryland wilderness. The trees are massive, and the biodiversity is unmatched. Managing a property of any considerable size has many stakeholders and a lot of responsibility.
I realized I had a passion for preserving Southern Maryland. When I heard PTLT was looking for a contract manager I felt like the job was tailor-made to my varied skill set. They needed someone to manage a variety of tasks and have a love for the land. It's a unique combination. It was right for me.
PTLT: What is it about Southern Maryland that you like?
AG: My absolute favorite thing about Southern Maryland is how unique it is in its environmental makeup. It’s an amazing place where water meets the land and agriculture meets marine fisheries. I haven't been anywhere in the world where the environment is as unique as Southern Maryland.
PTLT: Where in the continuum of environmental progress do you see our region?
AG: When I think of this area from when I was a child to what it has become now the change has been significant. People have realized how amazing Southern Maryland truly is and have flocked here in great numbers. With population growth comes housing, shopping, and road expansion.
We are at a turning point in the development of Southern Maryland where we must seek out its environmentally fragile locations and preserve them. The environmental community has a big job ensuring impacts of development on the environment are known and areas of unique beauty are left alone. We must save rural Southern Maryland for rural Southern Maryland.
PTLT: How would you assess our area’s role in land stewardship and conservation.
AG: Southern Maryland has so many great organizations for environmental awareness and environmental protection. People who use and love nature want to save it. It's our job in the environmental community to spread awareness as to what should be saved. Education is such a pivotal piece in the struggle to save biodiversity. In Southern Maryland we must make woodland, farms, and waterways top priority. PTLT along with other trusts in the area are laser focused on exactly these places.
PTLT: Following up on the above question, what’s your vision – realistically or not — of successful land conservation for our area?
AG: Unrealistically, I’d love to roll back the clock on a lot of the sprawl that has happened in this area. PTLT has given me the pathway for a much more realistic goal. Much of the land in Southern Maryland is currently owned by private individuals. PTLT either through donation or compensation is placing easements on these properties which preserves the property. The beauty of the easement program is the landowner is only responsible for keeping their farmland, wetland, and wooded areas as they are today. In my tenure at PTLT I’d love to see us, and our conservation partners reach a million or more acres preserved forever across Southern Maryland.
PTLT: How do you see PTLT working with other local environmental organizations going forward?
AG: I've only just joined Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust but already I've met with several stakeholders in other environmental conservation groups and trusts in Southern Maryland. All these organizations are working to join forces by creating the Southern Maryland Conservation Alliance. Many voices as one will affect great change in Southern Maryland.
PTLT: Is there anything you’d like to say directly to Southern Md. residents in general and landowners in particular?
AG: Properties greater than 20 acres with a single residence are potential candidates for conservation. If anyone would like information on PTLT’s easement program, I can be reached at email@example.com.
On September 7,1944, Liege, Belgium was liberated. Dabney rode on a USA tank through town and finally saw the front of the house where he had been hidden in the attic. He was ordered to go to Paris for debriefing then returned to England.
Dabney was sent home on leave and he told the Statue of Liberty that she would never see him again. He never flew again. He reported back to the Base for training on the Norton System, but chose to come home with his Honorable Discharge as a Lieutenant. He was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Medal for heroic action while participating in aerial flight, two Caterpillar Pins, and a Special Award from Belgium Red Cross. On March 6, 1947 he married Irene Jones of Elkins, WV on her birthday. They were married for 52 years. Dabney and Reeney were part owners of the Bartow Drive-Inn but sold their share when they opened the Pocahontas Motel and Restaurant in 1953 at the top of Cheat Mountain, which they operated until the 1990's. The restaurant was famous for the German pot roast and homemade pies. Reeney passed away in May of 1999.
Dabney hosted hunting groups including deer, raccoon, and bear hunters. He also raised hunting dogs for coon hunting. He was an avid fisherman and taught all his nieces and nephews how to fish. He spent hours making intricate fishing flies. Dabney and Reeney moved to Olive, their mountain farm, when they retired. On this gentle farm, Dabney grew Christmas trees, raised peacocks and cared for his horses. Dabney believed in protecting the environment and preserving wildlife before it was fashionable. This special gift in Lloyd "Dabney" Kisner's memory will help preserve open space in perpetuity for future generations.
A heartfelt thank you,
Frank Allen, President of Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust (PTLT)
Making our local community a better place is our reason for being. We protect farms and forests from development. PTLT advises to regional and local planners in their efforts to protect our wild spaces, while improving our quality of life. Our work protects wildlife around us before it is gone. Currently, PTLT board member David Moulton is leading a study to modify hay harvesting schedules to protect ground nesting birds like Eastern Meadowlarks while making sure farmers still can harvest their crops. Grassland bird numbers have dropped by 70% since 1970 - we need to bring them back.
Here in more detail are our most significant accomplishments in 2021.
We protected more land. By the end of this year, we will have completed the acquisition of four more conservation easements totaling 340 acres. We will have protected over 6000 acres! Funding for these came from the Maryland Rural Legacy program and from St. Mary’s County. For one easement, the owner generously donated half the value of the easement price.
We joined a conservation partnership. A decade ago, PTLT led a study to determine land protection priorities in Southern Maryland based on inputs from varied stakeholders. More recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used this study as a key input for a study for land protection in the entire Patuxent River watershed. This year these efforts bore fruit in the creation of the Southern Maryland Conservation Alliance (SMCA) which had its public kickoff earlier this fall. A key objective of SMCA is to develop green corridors by connecting areas that are protected with conservation easements. Our Huntersville Rural Legacy Area is in this priority area, as is the McIntosh Run watershed where we are in the process of acquiring our first easement.
We continued to provide stewardship for our easements. Our volunteers monitored 100% of our easement properties again to ensure that easement terms are being met. It is a large annual undertaking that PTLT has successfully met for many years, thanks to our committed volunteers and hardworking Monitor Coordinator. We identified some minor issues which are being resolved by Board and organization partners.
We continued to work with the community. On November 6th our Weed Warrior group started another winter campaign to clear vines and invasive plants at Myrtle Point Park. Over the years we have cleared tangled messes from several acres of the park where healthy tree canopies are now becoming established.
PTLT also routinely provides inputs to state and local transportation and development plans, paying particular attention on the goal of protecting our remaining open space. Due to Covid, we only participated in a few live outreach activities. However, much work transpired this past year via phone calls, zoom, and actual outdoor meetings and walkthroughs. Perhaps because of Covid, many people understand and appreciate the need for open space and the outdoors.
Our thanks to all who made this happen. We are an all-volunteer land trust. Day-to-day activities of running an organization include public outreach, training, and conference attendance - including the (virtual) Non-profit Risk Summit and the Land Trust Alliance Rally; providing applications for Rural Legacy grants (which provides the lion’s share of our easement transaction costs); volunteer coordination; easement monitoring; as well as publicity via social media, website, and newsletters.
Finally, special thanks to our donors. Donations help us fund such things as meeting the incidental costs of acquiring easements and building a dedicated endowment for long-term stewardship of donated easements. This year we particularly want to thank the friends and families of Ben Schaible, Dudley Lindsley, and Dabney Kinsner, who gave gifts in the memory of their loved ones. We sincerely hope our work to protect land in perpetuity will honor their memory and their love of the land and nature.
Thank you for your continued or first-time support of PTLT. Your donation will help us acquire more land easements, monitor properties, and achieve our basic administrative needs. Because PTLT is an all-volunteer tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, your contribution will go a long way in assuring the sustainability of our mission.
Thank you. See you outdoors!
Frank Allen, President of PTLT.
We know you have many choices in this giving season. We hope you will think local by keeping PTLT in mind as you consider your end-of-year giving. Contributions to PTLT are tax-deductible and will be acknowledged in our print and electronic communications.
Mail checks to PTLT, P.O. Box 1955, Leonardtown, MD 20650. For electronic payment, please visit www.ptlt.org. If you have any questions on giving or, just as important, volunteering, do not hesitate to call me personally at 301. 862.3421 or by email, Frank@ptlt.org.
On behalf of the volunteers of Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust, I wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season.
PTLT Board of Trustees
Frank Allen, President
Robert Willey, Vice President, Monitoring Coordinator
Bob Prine, Treasurer
Sarah Houde, Secretary
Hon. Karen H. Abrams
Diep Nguyen-Van Houtte
Emily Wilkinson, NextGen Chair
The Past is Alive
An interview with Merideth Taylor, author of Listening in: Echoes and Artifacts from Maryland’s Mother County.
Shortly after arriving at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 1990 to teach dance and theater, Merideth Taylor set about exploring the backroads of Southern Maryland, camera in hand. Her forays would result in a 162-page book of photos and stories – Listening In: Echoes and Artifacts from Maryland’s Mother County.
Her book consists of brief entries accompanied by color photographs of one-of-a-kind built houses, stores, schoolhouses, churches, and barns – many far from their best years. Some still function, many are in advanced ruin, and some have since been demolished. Taylor’s stories depict imagined voices associated with each structure: children of tobacco workers, the young African American janitor at the schoolhouse at Sotterley Plantation, a moonshiner, a boardinghouse operator, and many more. Some voices are in the first person, others in the third person.
What comes through, in story after story, are takes on people connected to land – by virtue of farming, hunting, fishing, and engaging in everyday activities, such as school kids collecting firewood for their one-room schoolhouse. Taylor’s ghost voices echo a culture that hadn’t yet been overtaken by shopping centers, housing developments, car dealerships, fast food, and branch banks – such as in this partial entry:
Growing up on a farm by Chesapeake Bay, life was hard, but the family had good times, too. They were sharecroppers back then and didn’t have much. . . . Their dad wasn’t big on hunting and oystering, but he was a hard worker. Every year when the tobacco market time came, he’d ride up to Hughesville with Mr. Ford, the farm owner, and come back with a few hundred dollars. He hadn’t gone past the fourth grade in school, and the family was never sure whether that money was truly their fair share. But Mr. Ford ended up selling them a little piece of land with their house on it for a price they could afford, so they figured he was basically a fair-minded man. It was hard work, and the family never had money to spend, but they loved each other. They loved being together. And they learned a lot of important lessons about life, about how to stick together and do right by people.
In the following Q&A, Taylor tells how she came to bring these echoes to the page as well the photographs that connect them to the Southern Maryland landscape.
Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust: What inspired you to make something more of your exploratory road trips in Southern Maryland? Was it an evolution of an idea or did you know from the start what you wanted to accomplish?
Merideth Taylor: I took the photographs over a period of many years with no particular use in mind other than enjoying them hanging in small frames on the wall. I was lucky enough to be able to retire in 2012, and retirement provided me with the time to explore creative pursuits I had put on the “back burner” due to a heavy workload teaching, choreographing, and directing at the College. The idea for the book simply bubbled up because I had time to relax and think.
PTLT: You’ve lived in St. Mary’s County for close to 30 years. What have you observed in terms of changes to its landscape? Have you ever retraced your routes taken in the researching of your book and, if so, what changes have you noticed in what you photographed?
MT: Thanks for asking that - it gives me a chance to rant a little. The environmental changes since we arrived in 1990 have been enormous. The county could still have been described as having a “rural character” then, if not being actually rural. Former tobacco fields were just beginning to sprout houses here and there. There were many forested areas as well as farms. Willow’s road, for example, which is our main route into Lexington Park, was wooded almost all the way from Rt. 5 to town. It is now a strip of housing developments, storage businesses, and an industrial park. It’s painful to me to drive down it now, because I feel the loss. I do drive by many of the houses I photographed, and some are no longer there. I still feel attached to the sites. But I don’t feel romantic about that loss or the passage of a way of life so much as I feel very sad about the environmental degradation and the disappearance of natural habitat. This was one of the last relatively undeveloped peninsulas on the east coast. Though there are still pockets that seem rural, suburban sprawl and strip malls are becoming dominant.
PTLT: What are some of your more memorable entries in Listening In?
MT: If you mean are there favorites, not really. I identify more strongly with some than others maybe, because they’re closer to my own experiences. There’s one on development that reflects very much what I said about the way I feel about the loss of forests, farms, and natural surroundings.
PTLT: How do you see these structures connecting with the landscape in which they were built? Is it possible these structures “belonged” in the landscape while what has been replacing them hasn’t?
MT: Not sure. The buildings I photographed had a purpose, and that was to serve family needs in a way that was affordable, and, to the extent possible, pleasing to the eye. They were pretty utilitarian, but also reflected the skill and aspirations of the builder. The owner-built homes, even though they were, by and large, traditional and relatively simple, seem to have character in a way that the tracts of uniform, big, boxy houses don’t have. They are human scale. Generally, more inhabitants shared less space. Conspicuous consumption, whether of space or objects, was not rampant as it is today. And people lived much of their lives outside. Today we have big houses with small yards because lives are lived indoors, connected to the outside world through electronic devices.
PTLT: Do you see an inevitability in what’s happening to the region’s landscape, or if not completely inevitable, then what could mitigate the losses?
MT: Since the changes are largely fueled by population growth, mitigating factors are limited. And there is a strong cultural belief that growth is good; growth is equated with progress. While, it is good that people have homes and have jobs, we are seeing now the costs of unchecked growth and consumption, and we are facing a climate crisis. We can learn to cooperate and join together to take measures to reduce our carbon footprint. Science has defined the problems and led us to potential solutions. What is missing is the political and popular will to act. So maybe the inability to overcome our political polarization is the bigger crisis. But there are many promising signs. People are beginning to recognize that, when it comes to the health of our planet, we are all affected and all connected. We are all in the same boat.
PTLT: What would you like to see people get from reading Listening In?
MT: I hope they will gain a new perspective on local history and feel a connection to this interesting place and its diverse community, and that, whether they know it well, are newcomers, or have never been here, that they empathize with the characters and relate to their experiences. Of course, I hope they will enjoy it!
Listening In was published by George F. Thompson and is distributed by University of Virginia Press. It is available through the publisher and distributor, as well as in local shops, and on Amazon. Link to the author’s page at GFT Publisher: http://www.gftbooks.com/books_Taylor.html
Continued from Home Page...
The Southern Maryland land conservation organization, Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust, Inc. has proposed an expansion of the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area creating a north-south greenway across the peninsula which includes forested interior and coastal areas, headwater streams and steep slopes connecting the watersheds of the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers from Coatigan Creek to the Brooks Run branch of the McIntosh Run. The current Huntersville Rural Legacy Area comprises 8,897 acres, of which approximately 5,370 are held in conservation by PTLT and its partners. The proposed expansion would add more than 5,900 acres of agricultural and forested land protecting twelve headwater streams and associated steep slopes and wetlands across the central part of the county.
PTLT is seeking interested landowners who may want to sell a conservation easement on their 15-acre or larger parcels of land within the existing or expanded Rural Legacy Area. Properties within the Rural Legacy Area may qualify for conservation easement purchase funding through Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program (RLP). The RLP creates public-private partnerships between landowners, local land trusts, and local governments to determine the best ways to preserve critically important farm and forest lands through the purchase of conservation easements which limit future development options for the property.
The current Huntersville RLA was established in 1996 and includes 12 miles of Patuxent River shoreline between Trent Hall Creek and Horse Landing. The proposed expansion will capture larger tracts of land from Coatigan Run to Cole Creek on the northeast and include portions of the McIntosh Run, southwest of Rt. 235. This will include the headwaters of 12 streams including a portion of the Brooks Run tributary to the Mcintosh Run. These headwater stram systems feed the Patuxent and Potomac rivers and their protection aids the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The area has significant agricultural, forestry, ecological and cultural value, including threatened and endangered species habitat, wetlands, forested steep slopes, and cultural resource sites. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Center for natural Areas has designated portions of the streams within the proposed expansion area as “critical wildlife habitat in need of protection.”
The proposed expansion aligns with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Patuxent River Regional Conservation Partnership, the Department of Defense Remediation and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program implemented by the U.S Navy, and St. Mary’s County’s rural land preservation goals, as well as those of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.
Are we condemned to watch our birdlife disappear? No. Not as long as we’re willing to act. What can be done?
For starters, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has suggested “7 Simple Actions” that individuals can take to protect birdlife, such as treating window glass to avoid bird collisions, keeping cats indoors, and letting your land get a little wild with native plantings
In addition, if you own a piece of land, you can add “Simple Action Number 8” -- protect your own fields, forests or farmland. Loss of habitat is the most serious cause of bird declines. Over 90 percent of the land in Maryland is in private hands, not public parks or wildlife refuges, so private landowners must be part of the solution. The land you love can be protected forever if you attach a “conservation easement” to your deed. Such easements can be facilitated through your local land trust.
In St. Mary’s County, the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust (PTLT) has protected over 5600 acres of private land working with more than 30 willing landowners and government partners. And if you’re not a landowner, you can still protect land by contributing to your land trust. That’s what Wild Birds Unlimited has done by supporting the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust (PTLT). You can too.
On December 9th the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust closed on yet another easement: a 56-acre property on Medleys Neck Road in Leonardtown owned by the Thorne family.
This beautiful parcel consists of nontidal wetlands, forests, and roughly three acres of cleared land for the farmstead and a farm field. Two primary nontidal streams flow through the forested area, providing approximately 3,400 linear feet of forested riparian buffer. The wooded section includes dense stands of laurel, holly, and some specimen-sized trees of varying species. There are also as many as several acres of healthy stands of lycopodium (club moss).
The Navy, through its REPI program (Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration), provided funding for half of the value of this conservation easement while the Thornes generously provided a donation for the balance. After closing, PTLT will co-hold the easement with the Navy and with Maryland Environmental Trust to protect the property in perpetuity.
Rose Thorne recalls fond memories of growing up on the property with her siblings and playing in the woods. She says the Thornes are not only thrilled to be able to protect this land for future generations but also as a remembrance of their parents for giving them such a lovely place to grow up.
Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Powassan Virus disease, Borellis miyamotoi disease, Borrelis mayonii disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Alpha Gal. All these maladies are carried by ticks. The problem (and the suffering) is getting worse.
All appear to come from the environment. A genetic study by Yale School of Public Health found that Lyme has been endemic in eastern North American forests for at least 60,000 years, longer than people have been known to be here. Yet, it wasn’t until 1975 that the first case of Lyme was “discovered” in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Alpha Gal was first reported in 2002. Since then, the number of victims of Alpha Gal has exploded. All these diseases are at a minimum debilitating and at worst fatal.
Why have these diseases suddenly appeared in the population to cause such suffering? There are a few clues, beginning with human activities, such as forest management and wildlife management.
Example of wildlife management: White-tailed deer almost became extinct at the start of the Twentieth Century, only to be reintroduced in the 1920s. In the last few decades, their numbers have soared, and as a result, tick numbers have also exploded, since the ticks now have plenty of food on the hoof.
Forest management: Before the colonists arrived, the indigenous population managed the land through controlled burning of the forests. This practice favored such fire-resistant trees as oaks at the expense of fire-sensitive trees, such as maples.
Recently the Nature Conservancy has undertaken controlled burns on some of its Maryland properties. These properties, in the western part of the state and in the Delmarva region, have since experienced better control of invasive plants, reemergence of natives, and greatly reduced tick populations.
Similarly, the Audubon Society’s North Carolina chapter staff undertakes controlled burns on its 3,000-acre Donal C. O’ Brien Jr. Sanctuary on Currituck Sound near Corolla. From late winter through early April they burn a third of its marsh grass in a yearly rotating pattern that allows wildlife to shift to other parts of the property. They consider the burns essential in providing food, shelter, and nesting material needed for birds to survive. The practice mimics nature’s renewal cycle aided by lightning strikes that ignite the grasses.
Since cures for tick-borne diseases currently range from difficult to impossible, it makes sense to reduce risk of acquiring these diseases through such practices. Strategic burns are much more beneficial than eradicating ticks by pesticides, which are expensive and devastating to nearby forest and aquatic dwellers.
“It’s time to consider reducing tick populations using an ecosystem approach with a combination of wildlife management and controlled burning in our fields, brushlands, and forests,” says Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust President Frank Allen. “As an asthmatic, I believe that controlled burning is one of the few forms of combustion that should have a place in our communities.”
Frank Allen is President of the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust. For more information on the controlled burns in Maryland, visit: Nature Conservancy. For more information on the Audubon Society’s North Carolina chapter burn program, visitPine Island Audubon Center. For more information on ticks and tick-borne diseases, visit: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.