What’s a watershed? Where’s the Gunpowder Valley?
We know you have lots of questions and we hope the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC)’s Frequently Asked Questions page can answer most of them. Stay tuned as we continue to add new resources and categories.
GVC works throughout the Gunpowder watershed. The Gunpowder watershed drains 500 square miles from York County, PA through Baltimore, Carroll & Harford counties, to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the Baltimore area's drinking water supply comes from two reservoirs located within our watershed: Prettyboy and Loch Raven.
GVC doesn't currently have a central office but our P.O. Box is in Towson. Historically, our reforestation projects focused on Loch Raven Reservoir and northern Baltimore County. We are now planting trees throughout the Gunpowder watershed. Similarly, our stream clean-ups occur throughout the watershed.
GVC sells rain barrels to anyone regardless of location. However, properties within our Clear Creeks Project area are eligible for a 50% discount ($35/barrel).
Our grant funding for conservation gardens are strictly limited to certain sub-watersheds within the Gunpowder. Visit our Clear Creeks Project page to see whether your property qualifies.
A watershed is a land area that channels rainfall to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to drainage points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. Everyone lives in a watershed. Our home watershed, the Gunpowder, is our direct connection to the Chesapeake Bay.
Since watersheds operate at different scales, you are also in multiple watersheds at the same time. For example, if you live in Carney your neighborhood stream might be the Jennifer Branch. The Jennifer Branch is a tributary to the Big Gunpowder Falls. Your watersheds would be "Jennifer Branch", "Lower Gunpowder Falls", "Gunpowder" and "Chesapeake Bay". It's all connected!
Through the years, we've been fortunate to have volunteers from across the greater Baltimore area attend our events. We love connecting people to their home watershed group.
Here are some other watershed organizations in the greater Baltimore area:
- Gunpowder Riverkeeper
- Bird River Watershed Restoration Campaign
- Blue Water Baltimore
- Maryland WaterWays
- Friends of Herring Run
- Friends of Jones Falls
- Back River Restoration Committee
- Patapsco Heritage Greenway
- Watershed Alliance of York
Help us make this an accurate resource. If your group needs to added or updated, send Amy Young a message.
Conservation-minded landowners can opt to donate their easement to ensure that their land is protected forever. Donated easements require the property to have significant conservation value, such as:
- Protection of a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife or plants or similar ecosystem
- Preservation of open space (including farmland and forestland) for the scenic enjoyment of the public, or pursuant to a clearly delineated public purpose and will yield a significant public benefit
- Preservation for outdoor recreational opportunities
- Preservation of historically important land areas or buildings
A donated easement will be managed by an appropriate government agency and/or non-profit land trust. Local options include:
- Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) is the statewide organization that accepts donated easements. There are currently more than 140,000 acres permanently protected by MET. MET prefers easements greater than 25 acres but may consider smaller parcels if they have significant conservation value. Only easements accepted by MET are eligible for the state property and income tax credit.
- Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC) is your local land trust that can accept either donated or purchased conservation easements. GVC currently holds easements protecting more than 1,800 acres in Baltimore County. Easements accepted by GVC are eligible for federal and state income tax deductions.
There are several advantages to donating an easement:
- Donations can be done quickly: Working with GVC generally takes less than 4 months to complete an easement. Working with MET takes longer due to the need to have the easement approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, but the process is still generally quicker than the purchased easement process.
- Charitable contribution: The landowner is responsible for the costs associated with a before and after appraisal of the property. The reduction in value of the property is a charitable contribution if the donation is accepted by a qualified conservation organization (e.g. MET, Land Preservation Trust). Keep in mind, that there must be a development right to relinquish to establish a value for a donated easement.
- Federal income tax deductions : The value of the charitable contribution established by the appraisal may result in a federal income tax deduction of up to your adjusted gross income (AGI) with a potential carry-forward of up to 15 years, dependent upon the value of the contribution established by the appraisal.
- Maryland income tax credit: If MET accepts your easement, you may be eligible for a Maryland income tax credit of up to $5,000 per year per person donating the easement for up to 16 years, or a maximum of $80,000 per person, dependent upon the value of the contribution established by the appraisal.
- Estate tax reduction: Easements reduce the value of the property, meaning there is a corresponding reduction in the estate tax subject to taxation. In certain circumstances, portions of the land (up to 40% of the value) may be exempt from federal estate taxes.
- Postmortem donation: The donation of a conservation easement is one of the only things that can be done after death to reduce the estate tax.
Depending on your property’s land use, location, and site assessment, it could be a candidate for a purchased easement, where you would receive direct compensation for protecting your land. Our GVC Land Preservation representative will walk you through your options as it can be a competitive process for limited funding opportunities.
- The Gunpowder River and Coastal Rural Legacy Areas are sponsored by the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy as part of the statewide Rural Legacy Program. This program provides funding to preserve large, contiguous tracts of land to enhance natural resource, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection. GVC can assist interested landowners whose property fall within our two Rural Legacy Areas (this will be updated. Need to get maps and other links)
- Baltimore County Department of Planning administers the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Program, which is intended to preserve working family farms that are at least 20 acres. To learn more about their criteria, visit their website or contact Megan Benjamin at email@example.com or (410) 887-3480.
- The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) is part of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and seeks to preserve agricultural land, including farms and forest.
It generally takes longer for a purchased easement to be finalized as it requires approval by several agencies. It can be a year or more from the time you sign an agreement of sale.
Each program has its own criteria for calculating the purchase price.
- Rural Legacy is based on a formula where the maximum payment cannot exceed 75% of the fair market value of properties in the area. Points are awarded based on the number of development rights on the property, the productive characteristics of the property, and water quality protection.
- Agricultural easements are generally based on an appraised value of the easement (no greater than 75% of the fair market value) and property owners are asked to “discount” the purchase price.
The property may have to pay capital gains tax on the payment for your easement. Landowners are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as some programs have deadlines for when funds are available.
Landowners typically must give up development rights to qualify for a conservation easement. Your land preservation options are very limited if there is not a development right to relinquish.
When an easement is created, there are a variety of restrictions that might be placed on the property to protect its agricultural and natural features. Each conservation easement is unique and crafted with your interest in mind.
Below is a summary of general restrictions; requirements may vary based on your easement holder(s) and terms.
- Maintain a minimum 50 foot grassed buffer
- Larger buffers and wooded buffers (riparian forest) are encouraged whenever possible
- Stream crossings are allowed in accordance with an approved Soil Conservation and Water Quality Plan.
- Generally prohibited
- Some non-density subdivision may be allowed in special circumstances
- Generally prohibited
- Some additional primary residences or tenant homes may be allowed on larger parcels
- Not required
- Allowed with a Forest Management Plan
- Conversion of a currently wooded area to a non-wooded area (clear-cutting) is not allowed
Agricultural Uses Allowed
- No limitation to agricultural activities
- Primary processing of products produced on the farm is allowed (e.g. creamery on a dairy farm)
- On-site sale of products produced on the farm is allowed
Commercial Uses not Related to Agriculture
- Generally prohibited
- Some limited uses may be allowed
- Generally allowed
- This includes forest banking, carbon sequestration, and related programs
Congratulations on taking an important step forward as a land steward! Once your property is in easement, GVC and any other co-holders of your easement will require monitoring visits at regular intervals— no more than once every year— to ensure that the easement’s terms are being upheld. You will be notified in advance, and the visit may be rescheduled to better accommodate your schedule. No access to interior of structures is allowed. Monitoring will involve outside photographs of the property and include staff and/or trained volunteers.
Yes, GVC continues to maintain a COVID-19 volunteer policy. GVC's top priority is, and remains, the health and safety of each of our members, staff, volunteers, and clients. These guidelines were adapted from state environmental and health organizations and are subject to change as COVID-19 restrictions are revised by the Governor’s office (last updated 3/17/22).
Yes! Volunteers of all ages are welcome to participate in our environmental stewardship events. Tree plantings are generally the best fit for young families. We recommend Tree Maintenance volunteers be at least 13 years old to use appropriate tools (e.g. pruners, tree loppers.)
Please note that in response to COVID-19, we have changed our volunteer policy. We are allowing minors (ages 8 – 17) to attend our events as long as there is one parent/legal guardian per four children in attendance. Adults must sign COVID-19 waiver form.
While each GVC event is slightly different, we have some general advice for volunteering at our outdoor activities:
- Be prepared to get dirty and wear clothes appropriate for yardwork! We strongly encourage all volunteers to wear closed-toe shoes, such as sneakers or boots.
- Dress for the season. Bring a hat, rain gear, sunscreen, bug spray and/or winter layers depending on the time of year.
- Stay hydrated. Bring your own reusable water bottle.
- Some locations are more remote than others. We cannot guarantee that there will be restroom near the work site.
GVC will provide all the necessary tools, including work gloves. However, you are welcome to bring your own work gloves if you have a favorite pair!
Yes! We love bringing groups of people together to make a positive difference in the health of our local forests and streams. Please fill out our volunteer interest form.
We encourage groups to sign-up in advance to help us plan our volunteer needs. Please keep in mind that our Covid-19 policies require us to limit volunteer numbers for safety reasons; this is another reason to register as soon as possible.
Most of our events occur on Saturdays and Sundays. With advance notice, we can schedule a tree maintenance or stream clean-up during the week for corporate volunteer groups.
Yes! All of our volunteer events are eligible for community service learning hours. It is your child’s responsibility to bring the required paperwork to each event. You can register online at our calendar of events.
Yes! GVC has worked closely with several Scouts through the years to implement special projects. Contact Peg Perry for more information.
TREE PLANTING & FOREST STEWARDSHIP
Yes! GVC is actively seeking property owners interested in planting native trees on their property as part of our Planting the Future initiative through 2023. All trees are 100% covered through our grant funding with Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Our minimum requirements are:
- Riparian Buffer: 0.5 acre+ within 100 feet of waterway and room for 50+ native trees
- Open Field: 1 acre+ with room for 100+ native trees
Please contact Peg Perry for more information.
No! If you are eligible for our tree planting program, there is no cost to the land owner. GVC provides the trees and arranges for a volunteer crew to plant the trees.
GVC exclusively uses native shrubs and trees in our plantings. Stay tuned for additional resources!
GVC hosts several FREE Adopt-a-Stream trainings each year to support people interested in becoming volunteer Stream Captains. Visit our Adopt-a-Stream page to learn more.
Thank you for your concern about an area that you value and enjoy. GVC's Adopt-a-Stream program helps to mobilize volunteers and train volunteer leaders (Stream Captains) to remove trash and monitor the health of waterways that need help. If you are interested in becoming a Stream Captain, we offer free training workshops several times a year. Check out our calendar of events for the next scheduled Adopt-a-Stream workshop.
STORMWATER BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
Stormwater best management practices (BMPs) are actions that have been shown to reduce water pollution, including nitrogen, phosphorous, and total suspended solids (e.g. soil particles).
GVC works with homeowners, businesses, and organizations to install the following BMPs:
Coordinated by the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC), the Clear Creeks Project is a grant-funded, citizen-based initiative that helps answer a community desire to restore the water quality of our local waterways. We provide homeowners, businesses, and other institutions with resources to take action for clean, clear water within the Gunpowder watershed—our connection to the Chesapeake Bay.
You can become part of the pollution solution by participating in the Clear Creeks Project:
- Attend a free educational workshop
- Purchase rain barrel(s) for your property
- Submit a pre-assessment form to determine if your property is eligible for a conservation garden
- Request a Clear Creeks Project presentation by emailing Amy Young, GVC Communications Manager
- Become a stream captain for your neighborhood creek or stream
- Learn about the benefits of adding native plants to your landscape
Questions? Contact Darcy Herman, Program Manager, by email or 443-296-5079 x1005/
Clear Creeks Project is funded by: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Chesapeake Bay Trust; Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability; Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, administered by Maryland Department of Natural Resources; BGE.
GVC has grant funding through 2023 to provide 50-80% discounts on Bay-Wise practices to property owners within the Clear Creeks Project area. Eligibility is based on the sub-watershed in which your property is located.
The Clear Creeks Project area includes the following sub-watersheds:
- Tidal Gunpowder
- Middle River
- Bird River
- Lower Gunpowder Falls
- Little Gunpowder Falls
- Loch Raven Reservoir "East"
- Loch Raven Reservoir "South"
View our interactive map to determine if your property is located in the Clear Creeks Project area.
If you are located within the Clear Creeks Project area, you can receive:
- 50% discount on Rain Barrels ($35/rain barrel) and FREE installation
- 60% discount on Bayscapes and Edible Bayscapes Gardens
- 70% discount on Microbioretention Garden practices
- 80% discount on Rain Gardens
Questions? Contact Darcy Herman, Program Manager, by email or 443-296-5079 x1005
A: Since 2012, the Clear Creeks Project has collaborated with the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability to help reduce stormwater runoff. These actions are detailed in small watershed action plans (SWAPs) - reports that identify sources of pollution and methods to reduce pollution in local waterways.
As of 2022, GVC’s Clear Creeks Project works in the areas described in the following SWAP documents:
Sometimes we refer to stormwater BMPs as Bay-Wise practices. They generally are the same!
GVC works closely with Baltimore County Master Gardeners to implement the University of Maryland Extension’s Bay-Wise Program. We can all be Bay-Wise when it comes to our gardens and lawns. We’ll be providing additional Bay-Wise resources here to get you on track!
A typical ½-inch rainfall will fill one 55- gallon rain barrel. To calculate how much water your barrel can collect:
- Multiply your roof square footage by 0.6
- Subtract 20% loss from splash and runoff
For example, a 2,000 sq. ft. roof can collect 1,000 gallons of rain water
- 2,000 x 0.6 = 1,200 [Total gallons of rain water]
- 1,200 x 0.2 = 200 [Total gallons lost]
- 1,200 - 200 = 1,000 [Net gallons of water collected]
Rain barrel water is NOT potable. GVC uses a double layer wire mesh screen over the barrel opening to keep out debris and insects. Leaf debris, bird droppings and chemicals from your roof material won't likely be harmful to your plants.
Our rain barrels are designed to prevent mosquitos from breeding:
- Double layer wire mesh screens over the opening
- Installing rain barrel at a slight, downward tilt allows excess water to drain off the barrel soaking into the ground.
You can use tablets called “mosquito dunks”, they release a bacterial agent that kills mosquito larvae but does not harm people, animals, or plants.
Yes! We sell rain barrels in conjunction with our free rain barrel workshops. Visit our Rain Barrel program page for more information.
NATIVE PLANTS AND GARDENING
Welcome to the Gunpowder watershed! We have some great resources to share with you.
- Attend a do-it-yourself Conservation Garden Design workshop
- Volunteer at an upcoming rain garden or Bayscape workshop
- Submit a pre-assessment form for a free Clear Creeks Project yard assessment
- Browse local guides for native plant selection:
- Discover native plants to select for your home gardens
- Browse Rain Garden manuals specific to the mid-Atlantic region
Unfortunately, GVC is unable to offer garden installation services for remediation projects. It is a stipulation of the grant funding we receive.