Like all Maryland taxpayers, Carroll County residents are asked to check off on their tax form a donation to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund.
In the two years the program has been in place, statewide proceeds have totaled just over $2 million.
That fund is divided evenly between the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which uses its share for programs directly related to the bay's ecology,and the Department on Natural Resources, which runs the Non-game andUrban Wildlife Program and the Natural Heritage Program.
Thus far, the trust has provided grants to more than 140 area groups for stream cleanup, plantings of trees and marsh grass, erosion control projects, water quality monitoring, habitat restoration and educational programs aimed at developing environmental awareness.
How does the fund benefit Carroll County?
The answer to that question is not a simple one. While our area profits to some extent from this tremendousfinancial pool, most benefits are peripheral and little of the moneyis returned directly to the county.
Several factors account for our county's failure to reap more benefits.
It may be, as Hap Bakerof the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association says, "We are too far uphill from the bay."
Or maybe, as Richard Leader of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation suggests, county groups are either unaware of possible funding for their needs or have simply failed to apply for available grants.
"We would certainly encourage Carroll County organizations to
write for grants," he says.
In spite of this, some of the funds do eventually find their way into programs that have an impact upon Carroll County.
For instance, Piney Run Nature Center distributed a variety of environmental literature, including Earth Day packets, made with $4,900 in Chesapeake Bay Foundation funds.
"Melissa Byrd at Piney Run is one of our most enthusiastic distributors of bumper stickers and bay literature," Leader says.
To date, Carroll County has benefited little from the portion of the fund used to protect rare and endangered species. Rodney Bartgis, DNR regional ecologist, says one reason may be that Carroll has few such species of plants and animals.
"Probably fewer than any other area of Maryland," he notes.
However, a program under way will aid landowners in identifying rare and endangered species on their property and will offer recognition to those who cooperate in protecting the specimens. This program will be voluntary and may include economic assistance to landowners who cooperate.
More than $7,100 from the fund went to the Monocacy River cleanup campaign.
Recently the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund has attracted the attention of those looking forways to cut the state deficit. Gov. William Donald Schaefer in particular has zeroed in on the DNR's special funds as a means of making up deficits.
At a recent DNR briefing, John Griffin, Deputy Secretary addressed the issue.
"This is the most severe problem the department faces," he says.
Already, he says, more than $3 million has been cut from the DNR's operating budget, a sum that may be made up out of the department's special funds.
Many Carroll countians, already feeling the budget crunch in the form of Patapsco and Morgan Runstate park closings, are particularly disturbed by the suggestion that money donated to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund will be usurped.
Baker, for instance, reports that he donated his entire state tax overpayment to the fund last year because he believed firmly in its value. Now he is angered by rumors that the money will be used for other purposes.
"I wrote letters to the legislators and said that (using the funds for other purposes) would be the equivalent of fraud and embezzlement in a business or a charity," he said. "If they try to do that, I'm prepared to start a statewide campaign totell people not to donate on their tax return."