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    Brandywine, Maryland

    171 Acres
    Mary Cross Zoeter, donor
    Conservation Easement

    If you live in a rural area relatively close to any large city, the reality of increasing development is likely evident every time you venture out. Familiar and comforting woods are leveled by heavy machinery and farms and fields are ploughed under and reshaped before houses and stores spread like a rash across the land. When the specter of suburban sprawl is prevented from taking this toll, as it was with Mary Cross Zoeter’s farm, it is a victory for the entire community, both wildlife and people.

    Ms. Zoeter’s dedication to wildlife and her deep attachment to the land -- which had been in her family for more than 150 years -- prevailed over developers’ pressures to sell. President of the Action for Animals Network, a Northern Virginia animal rights organization, Ms. Zoeter was determined to permanently protect her land from development, as well as to permanently protect the wildlife living upon it from hunting and trapping. Even though “buildable” land in the area commands ever-increasing prices, her adult sons, Garrick and Mark, were supportive of her wishes to preserve both land and wildlife.

    Anchovie Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is now actually protected by two easements. The first is a Maryland Environmental Trust conservation easement, which guarantees that the state will permanently prevent commercial and residential development on the land.

    To ensure that wildlife is permanently protected from hunting and trapping on her property, Ms. Zoeter arranged for a second easement on her land -- and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust was a natural choice. All HSWLT easements prohibit commercial and recreational hunting and trapping. Ms. Zoeter’s dedication to the well-being of the wildlife on her land is a testament to her awareness and appreciation of their needs.

    Bordered on three sides by streams that flow toward the Patuxent River and below the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary and Patuxent River State Park, the property had been farmed until recently. Its restoration -- through the efforts of Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage (CWH) -- will create a contiguous block of habitat for the first time in more than 150 years.

    Native vegetation that will benefit both wildlife and water quality is now taking hold. Costs for this habitat restoration are funded through the CREP. Already, 68 acres of trees and 38 acres of warm season grass meadows have been planted. While the whole property was wooded before it became farmland, the inclusion of meadows will provide for a diversity of wildlife, such as bobwhite quails and eastern meadowlarks, two species that have been impacted by loss of 99 percent of the large open grass meadows that once existed in the area.

    An amazing 34,450 trees were planted, including Virginia pines, black locusts, flowering dogwoods, green ashes, northern red oaks, black walnuts, sycamores, pin oaks, black oaks, chestnut oaks, American plums, hackberries, white oaks, elderberries, indigos, silky dogwoods, and gray dogwoods. Selected because they are known to flourish in the area, these species will provide for wildlife---indeed, they are already doing so. Among the tall, warm season grasses planted are big blue stem, indiangrass, little blue stem, and Virginia wild rye. Eastern Shore short grasses planted include side oats grama, common broomsedge, and Virginia wild rye. In addition, black-eyed Susan, golden coreopsis, lance-leaved coreopsis, partridge pea, and purple coneflower were planted. Trails created between the grass meadows provide edge habitat for songbirds and small mammals.

    The sanctuary is known to be home to a healthy array of species, including deer, moles, chipmunks, white-footed and deer mice, Virginia opossums, red and gray foxes, raccoons, cottontails, beavers, coyotes, and woodchucks. In addition to the bald eagle often seen soaring above the restored meadows, several owl species have been sighted on the property, including Northern saw-whet, barred, and barn owls.

    With deserved satisfaction, Ms. Zoeter looks upon the flourishing habitat improvements that rustle with wildlife activity. Because of the conservation easements protecting both land and wildlife, she is at peace. “It’s no longer worrisome when developers call to enquire about the property,” she says. “It’s a good moment.”

    Although this sanctuary remains privately owned, the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust has an obligation to perform periodic inspections to ensure that the wildlife habitat remains in good condition and that the terms of the conservation easements are being met.  These inspections, and the handling of any destruction or violations, cost heavily in professional staff time, consultants, and travel expenses. In addition HSWLT needs a reserve of funds for the substantial legal fees needed if enforcement of violations involves court action.

    HSWLT has promised to protect this property as sanctuary forever -- and that promise will be kept.  If you can help with the cost of stewardship for this and the other properties HSWLT protects, please donate here


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