350 Acres Protected Forever in Still Pond, Kent County
On Tuesday May 30th, ESLC celebrated with Kristen and Albert Nickerson as we finalized the permanent protection of 350 acres of their land in the area of Still Pond, Kent County. A collaboration between ESLC and the Department of Natural Resources’ Rural Legacy Program, the addition of the Nickerson’s farmland brings ESLC’s total easement acreage to more than 55,000 acres. The new easements also add to a contiguous block of nearly 1,300 acres of protected land. The benefits of such contiguity are endless. Working farmland is kept more secure when surrounded by other protected working farms, rather than being encroached upon by developments. Woodlands can support larger and more diverse populations of interior dwelling species like woodpeckers, thrushes, vireos, and owls when habitats are combined into large contiguous blocks. And waterways are better protected with longer shoreline buffers.
Kristen Nickerson is a sixth-generation farmer and partner of her family’s 4,000+/- acre grain and pork operation. Her family farm relocated from Howard County to Kent County in the 1980s during a time of intense development pressure. The family’s ownership and operation now help to preserve the agricultural history and integrity of Kent County and the larger Eastern Shore’s unique rural character and dependence upon working farmlands. “Preserving farmland has always been super important to both of us and our entire family,” Kristen Nickerson reflected Tuesday. “To maintain the character of our county and our area—it’s so rural and so beautiful—any little piece that we can help to protect and keep in its more original form… that’s what we’re shooting to do.” To date, the Nickersons have protected over 520 acres of land with ESLC. Their extended family, including the Langenfelders and Debnams, have collectively protected more than 2,100 acres.
The two farm parcels protected Tuesday contain 252 acres of agricultural land, 171 acres of which are identified as “Prime Farmland”—land defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as having the best physical and chemical characteristics for producing agricultural products. The farm is seasonally operated by Kristen and her family, who focus primarily on the production of corn, soybeans, wheat, and barley. The property’s 100-foot forested buffer helps to provide additional wildlife habitat and protect the water quality of Still Pond Creek. The easements also contain 93 acres of forest, which supports Forest Interior Dwelling Species of Birds, which have been severely declining in Maryland due to habitat loss. The easement also significantly benefits the public by protecting both the scenery along Still Pond Neck Road and more than a mile of shoreline. Protecting the natural beauty of this waterfront for future generations is especially important to the Nickersons. “I am the sixth generation on the Eastern Shore,” said Albert, “Our kids will be the seventh. To help preserve its character… I can’t even explain to you what it means to me to have the opportunity to help do that.”
Both properties were protected utilizing the Rural Legacy Program, established in 1997 to provide funding for land conservation for natural resource-based industries. The program balances natural resources, agriculture, and forestry with environmental protection, historical preservation, and economic sustainability. The area of Still Pond, Maryland is a crossroad community reflective of the historically rural communities that dotted the Upper Eastern Shore in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. It is registered as a Historic District within Maryland’s National Register of Historic Places. ESLC is delighted to work with the Nickersons to further protect their agricultural legacy and uniquely beautiful home place. ESLC would also like to thank Maryland DNR, whose financial and technical support were essential. To learn more about this program, including whether or not you might be eligible, please reach out to ESLC’s Conservation Specialist, Larisa Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit DNR’s Rural Legacy Program website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/land/pages/rurallegacy/home.aspx