The Land Conservancy of Adams County recently finalized easements on several parcels of land through collaboration with landowners, farmers, and a historic battlefield preservation organization:

The Lee Easement

“We joined LCAC due to our personal commitment to rural preservation.”

Christine and Harvey Lee own nearly 55 acres in Germany Township near Littlestown in southeastern Adams County. Last July, the Land Conservancy of Adams County (LCAC) purchased a conservation easement on their property with the help of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and donations to the Land Conservancy from our supporters. NRCS contributed the majority of the funding through its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which provides up to 50% of appraised easement values to protect farmland. LCAC’s requirement was to provide 10% of the value, allowing us to preserve this farm at significant discount, and with a substantial donation by the Lees.

The Lee Property.

The land owned by the Lees, which they purchased in 1987, consists of approximately 24 acres rented to a local farmer who rotates corn, soybean, and winter wheat plantings. Also within the property are woodlands, bottomlands, and wetlands. In addition, the Lees have planted hundreds of trees, such as eastern black walnut and sycamore, on nearly 14 acres of environmentally sensitive riparian areas through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), another NRCS program with goals to enhance water quality, reduce erosion, and restore wildlife habitat.

“Piney Creek [within the Monocacy/Potomac watershed] runs through our land,” they said. A major influence guiding their preservation efforts over the years has been their commitment to doing their part to protect that watershed. “We’ve been in CREP for about 20 years. The land between the road front and Piney Creek formerly was bare. But now it contains a healthy forest we planted to protect that stream.” They concluded, “We joined LCAC due to our personal commitment to rural preservation.”

The Newcomer Easement

With help from member donations and USDA/NRCS through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, the Land Conservancy of Adams County (LCAC) purchased a conservation easement from Janice Newcomer on her 68 acres in Reading Township northeast of East Berlin. In 1997 she purchased the property, the first in her family to own the land. Janice accepted an offer from the Land Conservancy for less than the appraised easement value, agreeing to donate a significant portion in a bargain sale.

The land has mixed characteristics. Approximately 50 acres are farmed, providing food for Adams County and beyond. There also are about 14 acres of woodland and fencerows providing habitat for a wide range of bird species, including various woodpeckers and owls. Flowing through her land is a tributary of Red Run, part of the Susquehanna watershed.

But the overall environment is even more of a haven for wildlife. “There’s a small wetland area in the front of my property, running along Anthony Road,” she said. “There’s a larger wetland amid the fields towards the back of my property, a quarter-acre area that was formerly farmed. I worked with the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to return this muddy mess back to its original wetland state — now a haven for wildlife including ducks, geese, bats, dragonflies, raccoons, wild turkeys, foxes, deer — and even coyotes!”

Janice also worked with CREP to plant trees in areas of the farm with poorer soil, which has the added benefit of preventing erosion. As is the case with wildlife, the many trees on the property are diverse, including swamp white oak, black oak, pin oak, tulip poplar, redbud, red cedar and various species of hickory and maple. “I have about 1.5 acres of yard with several organic gardens where I grow native species that attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.” And she has a relatively unique interest in animal husbandry: about an acre of the property is pasture for her two llamas. Both Smokey and Sammy are rescues, and have even been designated as LCAC’s “unofficial mascots” by the organization’s adoring staff.

Smokey and Sammy posing regally on the Newcomer property.

Janice’s determination to preserve rural lands represents a deeply-personal commitment. “Growing up on a small farm in Southern York County made me appreciate farms, nature, and open space. Unfortunately, I see the massive development that has taken over that area in the past 40 years, and development is creeping closer and closer to the farm I grew up on.

“My fear is that one day, it too will be swallowed up by development. I placed a conservation easement on my Adams County property to prevent that from happening to these 68 acres. I’ll continue to work to enhance wildlife habitat on my farm, improve the quality of the soil, and enjoy the quality of life that comes with living on a farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania.

“I’m so grateful to LCAC for placing my property under a conservation easement, which allows me to preserve my property’s farmland, wetlands, woodland, and open space forever. I’m honored that the Land Conservancy recognized the value of keeping my land free from development. Because, as my dad used to say, ‘They don’t make more land.’”

Collaboration on Historic Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation with American Battlefield Trust

Since 2012, the Land Conservancy of Adams County has been partnering with the American Battlefield Trust to protect parcels in the Gettysburg Battlefield Historic District that are eligible for acquisition by the National Park Service but aren’t yet preserved. The Land Conservancy now holds conservation easements on fifteen parcels covering nearly 100 acres owned by the American Battlefield Trust that are waiting for their eventual incorporation into the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Overhead map of preserved Gettysburg battlefield lands preserved by LCAC, ABT, the Gettysburg National Military Park, and more.

The four parcels that were preserved this year are in strategic locations that connect to existing Battlefield areas. On Seminary Ridge, North Hall was purchased by the Trust and will be evaluated for its historical significance and possible restoration. On the east side of Baltimore Pike just south of Slocum Avenue, two more parcels have now been acquired, which continues the Trust’s work to fill in gaps of the Park Service’s sawtooth boundary along that major gateway into Gettysburg. A fourth parcel is uncharacteristically large for the projects we typically do with the Trust, comprising 47 acres on Knight Road. This property lies just south of the forested slopes of Big Round Top, and at one time was proposed for a residential subdivision for 48 homes.

When the Trust purchases these properties, it restores them to their appearance at the time of the battle in preparation for their transfer to the Park Service. It takes an act of Congress to amend the boundary of Gettysburg National Military Park (or any national military park), a lengthy process which is the reason why none of the properties have yet been conveyed. Luckily, there is a work-around. Minor boundary adjustments may be permitted as an administrative change, which can occur when the value of the parcels is under a certain threshold. The Trust and Park Service are currently pursuing this approach to get a few smaller properties incorporated into the National Military Park.

Said LCAC representatives, “We are pleased to play a role in protecting one of our nation’s most important historic landscapes, a place that we call home.”

This post adapted from releases by LCAC.