Monday, March 19, 2007

Defense Department buys Harford County farmland to protect Army test area and Deer Creek

The Washington Post reports today that the Defense Department is

"...spending $1.4 million to protect 163.5 acres of farmland in northeastern Maryland from new-home construction, preserving a scenic habitat so that tanks and Humvees can keep roaring around the Army's off-road test course nearby."

According to the story:

"By using the farmland as a buffer zone, the Army will not have to worry about urban encroachment disrupting training and testing that has gone on at the Army's Churchville Test Area, a part of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, for 65 years.

The Army will celebrate the creation of the buffer zone at a ceremony Wednesday with its partners -- the Harford County government, the Harford Land Trust and the Hopkins family, which has raised crops, cattle and horses on its farm since 1955."

The story says the plan has environmental benefits as well:

"Army officials were concerned that if residential development took place, training would be restricted to a smaller area inside the Churchville site. Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environment, safety and occupational health, said that could "cause us not to be able to do the testing that we need to do as close to the combat conditions as we would like to shake out those vehicles and weapons systems."

The conservation easement will protect Deer Creek, which separates the farm from the testing grounds and is part of a watershed that provides drinking water for nearby northeastern Maryland communities that are growing in population."

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