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

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

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

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

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!

Easement Protects Anne Arundel County Forested Land

March 25, 2019

Partners Preserve Scenic Land on Little Patuxent

Maryland Environmental Trust and Scenic Rivers Land Trust have permanently protected 111 acres of forestland, wetlands and meadow along the Little Patuxent River from development. Owner Linda Egolf granted a conservation easement on the property, which has been in her family for more than 100 years, forever protecting this ecologically important habitat.


“We are pleased to have worked with our partners to protect this property” said Maryland Environmental Trust Director Bill Leahy. “It is a privilege to assist this landowner in her goal of protecting her family lands.


Funding for the conservation easement was provided by the Anne Arundel County Forestry and Forested Land Protection Grant Program, a grant program administered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust with funds from Anne Arundel County’s fee-in-lieu funds generated from Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act.   


“Protecting our ecologically valuable lands is vital to protecting our waterways and quality of life in Anne Arundel County,” Scenic Rivers Executive Director Rick Leader said. “With this grant program, the county is a leader in the state of Maryland, demonstrating how to effectively and efficiently preserve green spaces for the benefit of county residents, landowners and our environment.”

 

1/13/2019

Updated Perspective About the Crownsville Hospital Property

It's been a year since we released our perspective concerning the Crownsville Hospital Property. Since then, the county has a new executive with new ideas for the property. We thought it was time to update how we are thinking about this important piece of our community.

Click here to read the document


 

 

Scenic Rivers Land Trust
National Accreditation Application
Stakeholder Notification/Public Notice
August 15, 2018

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. Scenic Rivers Land Trust is pleased to announce it is applying for accreditation. A public comment period is now open.

The land trust accreditation program conducts an extensive review of each applicant's policies and programs. "Accreditation is one of the many ways we can show the public that they can trust us, that we are doing good work, and that our organization is strong. We will be proud to be named one of the leading land trusts in the state. Out of the 45+ lands trusts in Maryland, only 5 are currently accredited," said Sarah Knebel, Conservation Director at Scenic Rivers Land Trust.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how Scenic Rivers Land Trust complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-practices.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on Scenic Rivers Land Trust's application will be most useful by October 28, 2018. 


Our View: Trail Building and Public Access in Bacon Ridge

As many of you may have seen in a recent Capital article, a small group has tried to inject politics into public access to Bacon Ridge Natural Area. It is important that this unfortunate effort in no way dishonors the hundreds of hours of volunteer work expended by county residents in building the public hiker/biker trails. These trails are enjoyed by hundreds of bikers, runners and hikers. Current issues aside, Scenic Rivers Land Trust (SRLT) fully supports the continued volunteer effort for responsibly extending the trails.

I, for one, spent several Sundays helping to build the Bacon Ridge trails during the first two phases. I also regularly enjoy running the trails. I know that both County Executive Steve Schuh and Steuart Pittman support the volunteers and champion more public access. Both recognize that the county has a moral and legal obligation to both serve its citizens and protect our public spaces, history, and natural resources. 

The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) and SRLT – the two co-holders of the Bacon Ridge conservation easement - have approved every request by the county to allow trail building. Those approvals came with modest conditions. SRLT was informed by the county that the start of Phase 3 had potential violations of these conditions, and the county was going to pause the volunteer effort until the problems were remedied. Unlike a park, Bacon Ridge is designated as a Natural Area, meaning that additional protections are in place to safeguard its natural resources. Legally, SRLT and MET are obligated to advise the county so that it can stay in compliance with the conservation easement that protects the valuable cultural and natural resources of this beautiful Natural Area.  

We look forward to additional trails in the near future and fully support the effort to construct these trails under the careful guidance of the County’s Department of Recreation and Parks. We well recognize the increased quality of life that access to Bacon Ridge brings to our community. For those interested in more detail, I have attached a brief article.

Nina Fisher
President
Scenic Rivers Land Trust


Green Give 2018: June 12 - June 13

Kickoff event: Tuesday, June 12 5:30-7:30pm

St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Eastport

The GreenGive is a local, environmentally-focused, online initiative designed to both raise funds and expand residents' and businesses' engagement with local environmental organizations, issues, projects and actions. In 2017, its inaugural year, the GreenGive raised over $209,000 to support local efforts to restore the waterways of Anne Arundel County. 

This year, 11 organizations (including Scenic Rivers) are banding together to make an even bigger impact to clean our local waterways. For a little more than 24 hours, we will invite the Anne Arundel County Community to join our online fundraising drive with us to support clean water in our own communities. The online drive will begin on Tuesday, June 12th at 5pm.

Learn more at http://www.greengive.org/