Volume 14, Issue 50 ~ December 14 - December 20, 2006


Saving Maryland’s Special Places

We all have places that are special to us, getaways to escape traffic, stress and the madness in our midst.

Lucky for us, we had leaders in Maryland with foresight to see to our needs. In 1969, even before Earth Day, Maryland set aside a funding source for land preservation. The money collected is based on real estate sales. So, theoretically at least, preservation keeps pace with development.

For most of the years since, revenues from the real estate transfer tax have funded Program Open Space. But that commitment has lapsed in recent years as a result of a funding crunch in Annapolis and a philosophical change in the governor’s office.

It’s time to renew the bargain, as a new report by the Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center persuasively points out.

In Our Heritage at Risk, the center identifies seven special places in Maryland in need of immediate attention. It is not another one of those dreamy, let’s-hold-hands-and-hope manifestos but a realistic appraisal of what needs to be done, where and how.

The backdrop here is sobering indeed. Maryland already is the fifth most densely populated state. Even under conservative predictions, we’re likely to add another million people over the next two decades.

These projections, coupled with the rapid pace of development underway right now, should frighten anyone who cares about the quality of life in Maryland, not to mention Chesapeake Bay.

Yet over the last five years, the General Assembly has diverted $400 million from preservation to plug various holes in the state budget.

Those cuts, the new report observes, “have altered the delicate balance between growth and preservation that Maryland has achieved in the past decades.”

(Read the report for yourself at www.environmentmaryland.org/center.

We’re hopeful that the new governor and the General Assembly can begin to restore the environmental balance we’ve sacrificed.

As this report points out, the stakes are high and time is running short.

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