“We call this land OMG Acres. OMG stands for ‘Ouellette, Mueller, Glasson’ – the last names of the three co-owners – and it also stands for ‘Oh My Gawd’ for the sanctuary it offers from society’s craziness that too often carries us away from what is truly important and meaningful. This land is beautiful and peaceful in all seasons. Our goal is to protect, preserve and expand this land and its wildlife. As these beautiful lands and wildlife become more threatened by encroaching development, subdivisions and mining, this land should continue to evolve as a place supporting healthy ecosystems, forest land, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat while also allowing sustainable farming when needed now and into the future,” said Mark Mueller, one of the owners of OMG Acres.
Together, three landowners – Mark Mueller, Avery Ouellette and Dan Glasson – approached the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) early this year in hopes to protect their farm in perpetuity. With a conservation easement, the WVLT can do just that. This property is now the second conservation easement held by the WVLT in Pendleton County.
OMG Acres is comprised of 330 acres along the South Fork River (which flows into the South Branch of the Potomac), with a mosaic of open fields and woodlands. It includes three historical structures – an old farmhouse, log cabin, and church – which the landowners are in the process of renovating and hope to preserve. In addition to these structures, the easement protects ½ mile of river frontage and defined buffer areas along streams. The property is the most upstream of three other WVLT-conserved sites along the river. This project also protects biodiversity including wood turtles, Virginia big-eared bat, and a sandstone “pavement” pine habitat.
(Church restoration project. Photo above is the “before” and photo below is the “after!”)
The landowners are based in the DC area, but the farm has been their refuge during the pandemic. “We feel immensely grateful to have access to this beautiful property that allows us to continue enjoying our outdoor passions while isolating from others,” shared Avery Ouellette and Dan Glasson. “Watching the daily rhythms of nature and spending time each day working on projects to preserve the unique features on this property have given us a much-needed respite.”
Working on the conservation easement during this time period also allowed Mark, Avery, and Dan to look beyond the daily challenges of COVID-19 and think about their future legacy. This was particularly important given that Mark was diagnosed with cancer in the Spring. “We can’t thank Amy Cimarolli and WVLT enough for their thoughtfulness and dedication in helping us realize our shared conservation goals. We are also so grateful for the support of Severn Bank and their willingness to work with us in putting this conservation easement in place on our property. We are thrilled that the land will be conserved long after us.”
When asked about Severn Bank’s involvement with conservation projects, President and CEO Alan Hyatt stated, “Since Severn Bank is headquartered with all of its operations in a fragile environment, we realize what is at stake with the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the water ways, connecting lands, our environment, and the many surrounding states that are affected by its health. We feel we have a responsibility to do our part to preserve our natural resources, and we take this responsibility very seriously. This includes Severn’s Westgate Circle headquarters with a state-of-the-art “green roof” that captures and absorbs runoff water that would typically challenge our infrastructures and pollute our waterways. We also show our support with frequent donations to many environmentally oriented organizations, backing people and organizations who share our love of the land and water, and protecting properties for future generations.”
The purpose of conservation easements is to protect forests, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and working farms in perpetuity by placing permanent restrictions on the property. All of these values are protected at OMG Acres. In addition, the landowners committed to keeping trees growing along the banks of the South Fork to support clean water in the Potomac River, which benefits neighbors downstream.
Conservation easements are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each landowner; few conservation easements look alike because few properties are the same, and few landowners want exactly the same provisions. WVLT specifically tailors its conservation easements to meet the goals of the landowners and maintains a life-long authority and obligation to enforce the terms of the easement in perpetuity. Landowners still own their property and may use, sell, or leave it to heirs, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever.