Funds set aside to save farmland

$37 million to be spent to avert development

June 23, 2000|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Against a sun-drenched backdrop of Baltimore County farms and woodland, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced yesterday that the state will spend $37 million next year to preserve 15,000 acres of land, including the threatened Piney Run section of northwest Baltimore County and more than 3,100 acres of waterfront farmland in Queen Anne's County.

Glendening, speaking on the lawn of rural Mount Zion Church, said the state's efforts during the last three years to protect land from development has resulted in the preservation of nearly 47,000 acres.

"We now see more land preserved in Maryland than lost to development," he said.

The governor, flanked by Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and leaders from other metropolitan counties, credited his 3-year-old program, Rural Legacy, and the state's Open Space program, for aggressively saving land threatened by development.

Deron Lovaas, a representative of the national environmental group, the Sierra Club, said that although Maryland is losing 15,000 acres a year to development, the state is nevertheless "the nation's leader in protecting open space."

Yesterday's announcement includes $5.5 million in Rural Legacy and Open Space funds to protect 3,124 acres of Chino Farms in Queen Anne's County on the Eastern Shore.

Glendening described it as "the largest working farm with a single owner in Queen Anne's County."

The farm, he said, contains more than 2 miles of frontage on the south shore of the Chester River, as well as a 90-acre lake that is a sanctuary for Canada geese and other waterfowl.

The 6,880-acre farm, owned by Henry Sears, also includes Delmarva Bays, wetlands that harbor a number of endangered species.

Piney Run targeted

In Baltimore County, the state plans to spend $2.4 million in Rural Legacy grants to protect land from development in the Long Green Valley, Gunpowder River and Manor - also known as My Lady's Manor - areas.

The largest Baltimore County area included in the Rural Legacy program is Piney Run, which abuts the Carroll County line and includes the rural communities of Upperco, Butler and Armacost.

Prodded by the local Valleys Planning Council and other environmental groups, the state had previously designated the 20,000-acre Piney Run area for the Rural Legacy program. The county, state and council are using several programs to purchase easements from landowners to prevent development in the area.

"This corner of Baltimore County is fast becoming one of the largest contiguous blocks of preserved land in the county and on the East Coast," said Glendening.

`Preserve the scenic beauty'

Yesterday, he announced Rural Legacy grants of $2.2 million for 596 acres in Piney Run. The latest grants, combined with previous allocations, make a total of nearly $7 million in state money to protect 2,096 acres there.

"This is to protect the water quality of Piney Run" as well as farms and wildlife habitat, and to "preserve the scenic beauty," said the governor.

He also said that his office "has made a conscious effort to reward the jurisdictions that have gotten the job done," with previous grants that finalized the purchase of development rights.

"We must have a sense of urgency if we're going to save this valuable land from the bulldozer," he said.

Ruppersberger added that yesterday's announcement "keeps the momentum going" to save environmentally sensitive county land from development.

In other announcements:

Anne Arundel County will receive $2 million for an expansion of a Rural Legacy area to include an additional 8,870 acres of the Rhode River watershed.

Protecting that section from development will ensure the effectiveness of studies performed at the Smithsonian Environment Research Center there, said John A. Morris, spokesman for the county department of planning and codes enforcement. For 35 years, the center has studied the Rhode River watershed, serving as a research model for the entire Chesapeake Bay.

The Rural Legacy program protects 9,090 acres in southern Anne Arundel County.

Carroll County received $1.5 million for its preservation effort, bringing its total to nearly $4 million. The money will preserve more than 2,500 acres near Little Pipe Creek in western Carroll County.

Carroll officials used the governor's visit to promote their longstanding efforts to safeguard farmland from development. The county ranks among the leaders nationally for agricultural preservation, saving nearly one-third of its 300,000 farm acres since its program began more than 20 years ago.

Sun staff writers Stephanie Hanes and Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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