WYE MILLS, MD. -- A group is trying to launch the Eastern Shore's first land conservancy, in hopes of saving Mid-Shore land from development.

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has received a $35,000 matching grant from the Abell Foundation, a Baltimore-based philanthropic organization with an interest in local public-policy research.

"There's a real niche for land trusts on the Eastern Shore," said Russell Brinsfield, director of the Wye Research and Education Center, who is spearheading efforts to create the conservancy for Caroline, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne's counties.

"What has evolved is a consensus of opinion of a really large group of people that a land conservancy on the Eastern Shore could really make a large difference," Brinsfield said.

"I see what's happening in parts of the western shore and even on Kent Island in terms of what appears to be some tremendous growth pressures and I think we need to do a little bit better job... of thinking about how to deal with the whole issue of growth.

"One of the ways to do that is to try to identify ecologically important land areas and then work toward doing something to preserve those. And the land trust is one of the ways of doing that," Brinsfield said.

The grant money will be used to hire an executive director and to set up a program that would hold land and other property rights in trust.

Many communities in the country have established land trusts to protect areas threatened by development.

The private land trusts have considerable flexibility in how they can acquire property and purchase easements.

Dan Cohee, director of planning and zoning for Talbot County, described the proposed land trust as a "depot" for receiving conservation easements.

It also could serve as a way for some landowners to get income tax relief.