Three heirs with a penchant for privacy yesterday sold a 2,530-acre with wildlife refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore to the Nature Conservancy, which said the land is one of the best nesting areas for the American bald eagle.
The tract, which is adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Md., is located 62 miles east of Washington. In addition to the eagles, the land provides a haven for two other endangered species, the Delmarva fox squirrel, which is found only on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and the red-cockaded woodpecker. The wetlands are also dotted with stands of large loblolly pines.
The land was sold to the conservancy for $1 million by Marion J. Ricko, Isabelle J. Shelly and J. Wilbur Jarrett, who according to conservancy spokesmen, "assembled and protected the lan during his lifetime." The conservancy is an Arlington-based group that acquires and preserves ecologically valuable land.
Reached in Cambridge, Md., Shelly and Ricko expressed dismay at the idea that any publicity might be given to the sale and refused to comment on the land, the sale, J. Wilbur Jarrett or themselves.
The land was sold to the conservancy under the auspices of the American Land Trust (ALT), a non-profit organization created last year with the goal of acquiring $200 million of "ecologically significant" land by next January as a Bicentennial gift to the nation. So far the organization said it has acquired about $50 million worth of land.
According to a conservancy spokeswoman, the purchase of the Jarrett land is being made in two phases. About 1,680 acres are being acquired now, with an additional 850 acres to be added later this year.
Money to purchase the land was lent to the conservancy by the New York Life Insurance Co., which is also lent the conservancy money to buy land in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The Jarrett land will be added to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge as soon as the federal government reimburses the conservancy for the $1 million cost of the purchase, the spokeswoman said.
Founded in 1950, the Nature Conservancy has so far acquired about 1.1 million acres of land nationwide either through purchase or donation, the spokeswoman said. Land the conservancy acquires must meet one of several criteria - it must provide a haven for endangered species, exemplify an unprotected ecosystem, contain a unique natural feature or phenomenon, or expand existing preserves or refuges.