Cumberland Times-News

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April 2, 2013

Commissioners voted unanimously to allow DNR to purchase land

OAKLAND — The Garrett County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to purchase three properties in the county, each more than 100 acres.

“All these properties would be open to the public and would increase hunting opportunities,” said John Braskey with the Maryland Department of Natural Resource Program Open Space.

The approved properties include 315 acres on Backbone Mountain owned by Mountain Maryland Minerals LLC, 181 acres on Spring Lick Road owned by Gerard Kursvietis and 106 acres on Pea Patch Road owned by Robert Rounds.

The Mountain Maryland Minerals property was purchased for $615,000 and the Rounds property for $405,000. There isn’t a negotiated price for the Kursvietis property, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator.

The Kursvietis property is listed for $271,500 on its realtor’s website.  

The properties that the DNR owns are purchased with POS funds, according to Jim Raley, commissioner.

Tentative agreements exist with Mountain Maryland Minerals and with Rounds, but the Kursvietis property is in the tentative acquisition stage, according to Braskey.

The Mountain Maryland Minerals property connects to Potomac State Forest; the other properties are located at Savage River State Forest.

A state law passed in the mid-1980s requires Garrett County commissioners’ ap-proval of any state land acquisitions of more than 100 acres, according to Braskey.

The law is also in effect in Allegany County, as well.

The law replaced a land bank concept law that was only in place for six months, according to Braskey, who is a former commissioner.

The law was instated because of the amount of land owned by the state.

The DNR owns 86,549 acres in Garrett County, which is the highest amount in Maryland.

Chairman Robert Gatto questioned if the state acquires the mineral rights. 

Raley said that the question was asked because of potential natural gas drilling.

“The state will likely — based on this 2010 report — prohibit any type of drilling on state lands. But if the state doesn’t own the mineral rights and a drilling company can get onto the adjoining surface area, now with hydraulic fracturing, they can acess that gas,” said Raley.

In a 2010 report, the Maryland Department of Agriculture recommends that natural gas exploration doesn’t take place on state properties.   

Most of the time, the state insists on acquiring the mineral rights for proprety it purchases, according to Braskey.

“I think the biggest concern the state has is surface disturbance on the property that we buy,” said Braskey.

If hydraulic fracturing is deemed safe, there is a possibility the state may look into allowing it, said Braskey.

Gatto also questioned if the state approaches the landowner to acquire the property.

The state doesn’t solicit properties; about 95 percent of the acquisitions are started by a real estate agent, a land manager or the property owner, according to Braskey.

“In a lot of these cases the state may be the only person that may want to buy them,” said Braskey.

The Rounds property is located near state wildlands but won’t become part of them, according to Braskey.

“It helps protect the wildlands that are in that area,” said Braskey. “It’s a farm at this time.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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