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Scenic Rivers Land Trust Announces New Executive Director

Scenic Rivers Land Trust Announces New Executive Director

Sarah Knebel Promoted to Lead Growing Nonprofit

 

Sarah Knebel ScenicRivers ExecutiveDirector Annapolis, Md. (August 21, 2019) – Scenic Rivers Land Trust’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce the promotion of Sarah Knebel as the organization’s new executive director, effective September 3. Knebel succeeds Rick Leader, who served as executive director for the past nine years and announced plans in June to step down to pursue consulting opportunities. Leader hired Knebel in 2015 as Scenic Rivers' Easement and Outreach Coordinator with an eye toward mentoring her as his successor.

When determining next steps for the organization, Scenic Rivers’ Board of Directors readily agreed with Leader’s instincts, recognizing Knebel’s talent as a leader, her environmental expertise and her dedication to Scenic Rivers’ mission as the best fit for the organization.

"We are very pleased that Sarah has agreed to step into the role of Scenic Rivers’ next executive director," said Nina Fisher, Board President. "With more than four years managing increasingly complex projects and challenges dealing with land conservation, Sarah has the full confidence and support of the board to lead Scenic Rivers as we move into this new and exciting phase."

Knebel’s promotion comes at an important time for the nonprofit, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, in addition to recently reaching the 3,000+ acres milestone, having conserved more than 300 acres in the last year. Earlier this month, Scenic Rivers announced that it has earned national accreditation from The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, making Scenic Rivers one of only five accredited local land trusts in Maryland.

Knebel has been integral to this recent growth and success, taking over stewardship of all easements, leading Scenic Rivers through the national accreditation process, and being instrumental in finding and managing projects suitable for the nascent Chesapeake Bay Trust Anne Arundel County Forestry and Forested Land Protection Grant Program.

“I’m looking forward to strengthening Scenic Rivers’ position as a leader of land conservation in the county,” said Knebel. “I couldn’t be more excited to take the helm after all the good work Rick has done for this organization.”

Knebel will work with the sixteen-member board of directors, two part-time staff, and a team of volunteers to oversee Scenic Rivers’ conservation and stewardship programs, including its growing portfolio of more than 65 conservation easements.

In addition to her work at Scenic Rivers, Knebel is the former co-founder and environmental lead for Oxen, Inc., which created a sustainable local farm-to-door online delivery service. She has a BS in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Environmental Restoration and Management from the University of Maryland, College Park.

“Sarah grew up in Severna Park and is incredibly passionate about conserving the county’s remaining forests and natural spaces,” said Leader. “Her in-depth knowledge of the organization, her understanding of the natural resources landscape in the county, and her expertise in the best practices in land conservation make her a perfect choice for taking on this role.”

Scenic Rivers Land Trust Earns National Recognition

Scenic Rivers Land Trust Earns National Recognition

Accreditation blog logos

Strong Commitment to Public Trust and Conservation Excellence

Annapolis, Maryland (Aug. 7, 2019) – One thing that unites us as a nation is land: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 1988, Scenic Rivers Land Trust has been doing just that for Anne Arundel County. Now Scenic Rivers announced it has achieved national accreditation – joining a national network of land trusts that have protected over 20 million acres of land and demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.

“We are proud to be one of only five accredited local land trusts in Maryland,” said Scenic Rivers’ Executive Director Rick Leader. “Our conservation director, Sarah Knebel, led a team of board volunteers through the rigorous two-year review process to ensure that we are well-positioned to serve Anne Arundel County long into the future.”

Scenic Rivers provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that Scenic Rivers has the best practices, policies and finances in place to ensure that its land conservation easements will be protected forever.

“Accreditation demonstrates Scenic Rivers’ commitment to the highest practices and ethics of permanent land conservation,” said Knebel. “We could not have achieved this distinction without the commitment of critical donors and supporters who ensure our ability to grow. In particular, the Paul and Maxine Frohring Foundation is a significant investor in increasing Scenic Rivers’ capacity to protect land.”

Scenic Rivers is the most active land trust in Anne Arundel County, holding 68 conservation easements across the county, totaling more than 3,000 acres. Notably, Scenic Rivers co-holds conservation easements along with the Maryland Environmental Trust on the Bacon Ridge Natural Area, where Scenic Rivers hosts the annual Walk for the Woods, a day of guided hikes throughout the 900+ acre ecologically and historically significant area, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Contee Farm. Both properties are open to the public for passive recreation.  

In the last year, Scenic Rivers has conserved 325 acres throughout Anne Arundel County, permanently protecting lands ranging from a 100-year-old family farm to rare wetlands and acres of vital forestland.

“It is exciting to recognize Scenic Rivers Land Trust with this national mark of distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 400 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

Scenic Rivers Land Trust and Anne Arundel County Protect 174 Acres of Forest

Scenic Rivers Land Trust and Anne Arundel County Protect 174 Acres of Forest

Grant Program Partners

Innovative County Grant Program Encourages Landowners to Conserve Forested Land

Annapolis, Md. (June 25, 2019) — Scenic Rivers Land Trust, working with funding from Anne Arundel County’s Forestry and Forested Land Protection Grant Program which is administered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, has permanently protected an additional 174 acres of forested land in Anne Arundel County by working with two separate landowners to place conservation easements on their properties in Crownsville, forever protecting the ecologically valuable land from development.

“Far too many forests have been lost in Anne Arundel County, so protecting and expanding our remaining forests is essential for our community’s health and well-being,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman. “I’m proud of our partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Together we are able to fund large-scale forest preservation efforts like those championed by Scenic Rivers Land Trust.”

The two easements include a 93-acre property in the Severn River watershed owned by a local homeowner’s association and landowner Inge Caldwell’s 81-acre property in the South River watershed. Both properties are designated by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources as Targeted Ecological Areas, a designation given to forests and other areas that are a high priority for preservation. These mature forests are a vital component of a healthy ecosystem and essential for clean air and water and wildlife habitat. The Caldwell property, for example, is in Audubon’s South River Greenway Important Bird Area, designated as such because of the area’s diverse assemblage of Forest Interior Dwelling Species, or birds requiring large intact patches of forest for nesting and breeding. The homeowner’s association property contains two historical sites, a rare bog that is home to several endangered plant species, and 1,000 feet of scenic forested road frontage along Generals Highway.

The grant program, which is funded by fee-in-lieu funds generated from the Forest Conservation Act, is also supporting the planting of 5 acres of trees on the Caldwell property, increasing the forest cover on the property, which currently has 12 acres of fields.

“Our ability to conserve more land faster is amplified by this innovative grant program,” said Scenic Rivers’ executive director Rick Leader. “We are thankful for the County’s commitment to protecting our forested lands and for the landowners who partner with us to ensure that we pass on a thriving, healthy community to the next generation.”

Scenic Rivers now holds 68 conservation easements in Anne Arundel County for a total of 3,057 acres.

Scenic Rivers Land Trust Celebrates 14th Walk for the Woods

Scenic Rivers Land Trust Celebrates 14th Walk for the Woods

WalkforWoods 2019 Fisher Knebel Pittman

Annual day of guided hikes at the Bacon Ridge Natural Area attracts hundreds of area hikers; promotes exploring the outdoors and the value of land protection

Scenic Rivers Land Trust, in partnership with Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks, celebrated the 14th Walk for the Woods at the Bacon Ridge Natural Area in Crownsville on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The annual event promotes families exploring the outdoors and public access to the Bacon Ridge Natural Area, the county-owned property that is permanently protected from development by a conservation easement co-held by Scenic Rivers and Maryland Environmental Trust.

Over 300 participants, including families, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, turned out to explore the 900+ acre natural area on a variety of guided hikes, including bird watching, amphibian searches, archaeology, and naturalist hikes. Attendees also were encouraged to explore the 5+ miles of temporary trails on their own.

“Bacon Ridge is truly a hidden gem in Anne Arundel County,” said Nina Fisher, president of Scenic Rivers’ Board of Directors. “It is a perfect example of the power and the value of protecting our natural and scenic lands. Our goal with Walk for the Woods is to increase access to and awareness of this precious resource in our own backyards.”

County Executive Steuart Pittman attended the event to participate in the “Say My Name” remembrance ceremony, which is held annually in conjunction with the Walk for the Woods to honor the African-American patients interred in the Crownsville State Hospital Cemetery with only numbers to mark their graves. Before the remembrance ceremony, Pittman presented Scenic Rivers Land Trust with an executive citation in celebration of the nonprofit’s contributions to the County’s ecological health and in honor of the organization’s 30th anniversary.

Several educational programs were held throughout the day, including an artifacts display by the Department of Planning and Zoning’s Cultural Resources Division; the popular with children “Feet, Tails, and Fins” aquatic wildlife program presented by experts from Coastal Resources, Inc.; and the “Say My Name” remembrance ceremony conducted by local historian Janice Hayes-Williams and attended by both Pittman and County Councilmember Lisa Rodvien.

“Seeing so many members of our community, as well as County leadership, enjoying and engaging with our natural resources is encouraging,” said Scenic Rivers’ executive director, Rick Leader. “This year, Scenic Rivers is celebrating 30 years of protecting land and water in Anne Arundel County and this event is an urgent reminder of why we need to move quickly to permanently protect more of our natural resources before it’s too late.”
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30 Days for 30 Years: Protecting Land and Water in Anne Arundel County

30 Days for 30 Years:  Protecting Land and Water in Anne Arundel County

This year, Scenic Rivers Land Trust is celebrating 30 years of protecting land and water in Anne Arundel County. Since our first easement in 1989, Scenic Rivers has used land conservation easements to protect special places from development and provide tax incentives to property owners.

To date, we hold 66 conservation easements across the county, totaling nearly 2,900 acres—or about one percent of county land. Our goal is to double that amount. The fact is, when it comes to land conservation in our county, time is of the essence.

To kick off our 30th year celebration, we’re using the 30 days of the month of April (Earth Month!) to share 30 fun facts about Scenic Rivers’ work and the Bacon Ridge Natural Area, the largest property in our conservation portfolio and the host site for our Annual Walk for the Woods, via our social media channels. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to join in the fun. Plus, we’re even launching an Instagram account to get in the spirit of being 30!

And while we plan to celebrate this milestone all year (keep an eye out for details on a party planned for later in the year), our 30 Days for 30 Years celebration in April will culminate with our Annual Walk for the Woods on Saturday, April 27, 2019, from 7 am to 3 pm at the beautiful Bacon Ridge Natural Area (Farm Road, Crownsville, MD).

Join us online all month and then join us outdoors on the 27th!