April 25, 2022

Maryland Conservation Effort Helps Support Military Readiness, Preserve Harriet Tubman Legacy

DORCHESTER COUNTY, Md. — The Conservation Fund, in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR), the U.S. Navy and two landowning families, announced today the protection of roughly 305 acres that will help preserve a landscape significant to the life of American hero and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, and maintain testing and training capabilities for the nearby Naval Air Station Patuxent River—the host installation of the Atlantic Test Ranges.

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit focused on finding conservation solutions that make environmental and economic sense, helped facilitate the protection of two properties that fall within the Harriet Tubman Rural Legacy Area and beneath U.S. Navy airspace. The properties, now protected by conservation easements, will remain in private ownership while restricting any incompatible development that could jeopardize the environmental and cultural significance of the land, or ongoing military operations at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Funding for the conservation easements was provided by the MDDNR’s Rural Legacy Program Funding and the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program.

“This is truly a win-win-win for military readiness, land conservation and cultural preservation,” said Bill Crouch, Maryland state director at The Conservation Fund. “It could not have been possible without the enthusiasm of the Naval Air Station, MDDNR, the REPI Program, and the families who worked with us to see their valuable land protected for the community instead of developed.”

In 2018, the Rural Legacy Board established the 28,300-acre Harriet Tubman Rural Legacy Area to protect and conserve the natural, cultural and historic landscape of Tubman’s remarkable life. The state awarded The Conservation Fund roughly $2 million to pursue conservation easements on significant properties within the Rural Legacy Area.

“Preserving the landscapes where Harriet Tubman led so many people to freedom and preserving the rural heritage of this region is an important part of DNR’s mission,”  Maryland DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “We appreciate the environmental stewardship of the landowners, along with the support of The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Navy, which made this conservation success story possible. ”

Naval Air Station Patuxent River, along with the airspace and assets of the Atlantic Test Ranges, provides research, development, test and evaluation of Naval aircraft and essential training activities for service men and women. Keeping the test range free from any incompatible development is critical to the Navy’s testing and training mission.

“Maintaining compatible land use, such as the open farmland on these properties, ensures that the Navy can continue to test and train most effectively, giving our Sailors and Marines the skills and equipment needed for success and maintaining military readiness,” said Capt. John Brabazon, Naval Air Station Patuxent River commanding officer. “We thank the families for choosing to preserve their land, and for our conservation partners—MDDNR and The Conservation Fund—for bringing these projects to fruition. These projects are part of the Navy’s efforts under the REPI Program to help preserve a corridor of open land across the landscape in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia where we test and train.”

Authorized and annually funded by Congress, the REPI Program supports cost-sharing partnerships between the military services, private conservation groups, and state and local governments to remove or avoid land-use conflicts near installations and address regulatory restrictions that inhibit military activities. The members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation representing the Naval Air Station Patuxent River and the Atlantic Test Ranges include U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and U.S. Representatives Andy Harris and Steny Hoyer.

“Easements are powerful and versatile tools for advancing our conservation goals, and the protection of these more than 300 acres shows that easements can also strengthen our historical resources and national security,” said Senator Cardin. “I applaud the work of the many partners who brought us to this milestone and look forward to future, similar strides toward the mutually beneficial preservation of the Maryland landscape.”

“Maryland has a unique place in our nation’s history and an essential role in advancing our military capabilities. I applaud this new conservation effort that will strengthen our standing on both fronts by honoring Harriet Tubman’s legacy while protecting the local environment and supporting the critical work being done at Naval Air Station Patuxent River,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I will continue working in the Senate to highlight the stories of Maryland’s historical significance and support investments in our state’s vital military installations.”

“Continuing the important preservation work of historical sites associated with the incredible life of Harriet Tubman is of great interest to me, and as a veteran, ensuring the continued utility of installations like Naval Air Station Patuxent River is just as critical. This is welcome news for Dorchester County and our state, and I look forward to our continued collaboration going forward,” said Congressman Harris.

“The heroism and legacy of Harriet Tubman is felt and celebrated all across our state, and I’m pleased that today’s announcement not only preserves the landscape significant to her life, but ensures our military has the capability to continue their operations on behalf of our national security and defense,” said Congressman Hoyer. “This is not only a meaningful solution for our military, but serves as a strong example of how we can prioritize land conservation in a way that works for everyone.”

The Conservation Fund worked with two willing landowners to place conservation easements on these critical properties. They will remain under private ownership with protections that restrict development in perpetuity. They are located within the Middle Chesapeake Sentinel Landscape (MCSL) where a diversity of partners work together to protect land that supports wildlife, agricultural productivity, climate resilience and military readiness. One of ten Sentinel Landscape partnerships operating across the country, the MCSL brings together the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, U.S Departments of Agriculture and Interior, state agencies, land trusts, local governments and landowners to advance joint goals across portions of Southern Maryland, the Delmarva Peninsula and the Northern Neck of Virginia.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land, including nearly 172,000 acres in Maryland.

Val Keefer | 703-908-5802 | vkeefer@conservationfund.org