Natural Environment

Karen Janssen

Land protection provides substantial ecological benefits by avoiding conversion of natural systems to intensive, developed uses.

Habitat and Biodiversity

Protecting land helps safeguard habitat. By viewing the county as a large landscape, we can create hubs and corridors that help wildlife prosper.

Harford County straddles the border between the rolling hills of the Piedmont Plateau to the north and the flat Atlantic Coastal Plains to the south.

As of 2019, Harford County is home to 26 animals and 126 plants of Maryland’s rare, threatened, and endangered species, including bald eagle, bog turtle, and northern map turtle.

Protecting large blocks of forests and riparian areas gives plants and animals the space they need.

Examples of our work to protect habitat include:

  • Our protection of some of the last remaining wooded coastal plains along Willoughby Beach Road
  • Our preservation of over 900 acres of Stoney Forest for forest interior dwelling bird species
  • Our preservation of a large section of Gashey’s Run, one of the last known habitats of the Maryland Darter
  • Our partnership the Susquehannock Wildlife Society to research amphibian and reptile populations on our conservation preserves
  • Our participation in the Maryland Biodiversity Project to identify nocturnal insects on our conservation preserves

Clean Water

What happens on land ends up in the water. Land conservation plays a critical role in keeping our local rivers and streams healthy for people and wildlife.

Development can also have a dramatic impact on stormwater management and water quality. Loss of forests, meadows, and wetlands are also the loss of valuable green infrastructure – the interconnected network of natural areas that, among other services, buffer us from major storm events.

Impervious surfaces and lawns limit the area where infiltration to groundwater can occur. As a result, more stormwater runoff occurs which must be collected by municipal drainage systems. In addition to increased costs to establish drainage networks, these networks have additional ecological costs by carrying unfiltered and often polluted water directly to streams. When land is developed with impervious surfaces, water arrives in stream beds much more quickly and increases the chance of more frequent and more severe flooding.

Permanent land protection prevents future pollution loads – nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment – from entering the bay.

Examples of our work to protect water quality include:

  • Our conservation easements require vegetated stream buffers, helping to regulate stream temperature and control erosion
  • Our protection of Belle Vue Farm and Old Bay Farm safeguards more than a mile of Chesapeake Bay coastline
  • Our restoration of a Otter Point Creek tributary on our Welzenbach Farm to reduce nutrient and sediment run off
  • Our preservation of private properties with significant frontage on large waterbodies such as Deer Creek, Bynum Run, Winters Run, James Run, Grays Run, Swan Creek, and Cranberry Run
  • Our work to add preserved properties to the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at Otter Point Creek
  • Our ongoing partnership with the Deer Creek Watershed Association to protect the healthy of the watershed in northern Harford County

Ecosystem Services

Strong and healthy ecosystems provide many of the basic services that make life possible for people. The value of nature to people has long been recognized, but in recent years, the concept of ecosystem services has been developed to describe these various benefits.

An ecosystem service is any positive benefit that wildlife or ecosystems provide to people. The benefits can be direct or indirect—small or large.

Land preservation helps permanently safeguard natural areas that provide us with ecosystem services.

Plants clean air and filter water, bacteria decompose wastes, bees pollinate flowers, and tree roots hold soil in place to prevent erosion. All these processes work together to make ecosystems clean, sustainable, functional, and resilient to change. Such services include pollination, decomposition, water purification, erosion and flood control, and carbon storage and climate regulation.

Examples of our work to protect ecosystem services include:

  • Our prioritization of wetlands and mature forests in our land preservation criteria
  • Our participation in the development and implementation of Harford County’s Green Infrastructure Plan
  • Our conservation easements limit disturbance of riparian areas and forests

Photo by Shawn Slater

Our Work Depends on You

Harford Land Trust can save more land in Harford County, Maryland, because of generous people like you.

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