Program envisions network of green

Glendening initiative aims to build system of preserved spaces

January 16, 2001|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's latest land-preservation program, which targets 2 million environmentally sensitive acres, is aimed at huge swaths of forests, farms and wetlands from George Island Landing in Worcester County to Gnegy Church in Garrett County.

The program seeks unpreserved land along the Gunpowder River in Baltimore County and across stretches of Anne Arundel County, from the headwaters of the South River to Jug Bay on the Patuxent River.

Farms in Frederick County and property between state forests in Washington and Allegany counties also could be eligible for the program, dubbed "Greenprint," which attempts to establish a system of interconnected green "hubs" and "links" across the state.

State officials say the land, much of it ineligible for other preservation programs, has been mapped out during the past three years by Department of Natural Resources planners for inclusion in Greenprint.

Glendening announced plans for the five-year, $145 million program last week. He said he is including $40 million for it in his $20 billion budget.

The state would buy the land or purchase the development rights, depending on what agreements officials could reach with property owners, said DNR spokesman John Surrick. The amount of land depends on the cost.

"If you're looking at land in Central Maryland, that's going to cost a lot more than land somewhere else," he said.

Environmentalists praised the proposal.

"This is a huge step forward in land preservation," said Theresa Pierno, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "It will go a long way in providing the money to protect the land."

Forests and wetlands are important to the health of the bay because they filter pollutants from runoff.

Republicans, who warned last week that Maryland is spending too much of its $375 million surplus too fast and should scale back new programs, were not as enthusiastic.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman said yesterday that he would not object to specific programs, but rather to "the bottom line" of the state budget.

"I'm a strong environmentalist, and we do what we can," the Howard County Republican said. "But we have to look at our priorities and see where you can get the most bang for your buck."

Glendening said the program would be another tool in the effort to meet Chesapeake Bay Agreement land-preservation goals.

"Once a field has been paved over, or a forest plowed under, we cannot go back and undo that damage," he told a gathering of state environmental leaders in Annapolis. "We must act now while we have the money."

Chesapeake 2000, the bay-restoration agreement signed last summer, calls for the permanent preservation of 20 percent of the land in the bay watershed by 2010.

In the Greenprint scheme, "hubs" are parcels of 100 acres or more. "Links" are stretches of green space at least 1,100 feet wide that run between hubs and provide habitat for wildlife migrating among the larger parcels.

Maps developed by the DNR show which environmentally sensitive tracts have and have not been preserved, lay out potential links among them and point out areas threatened by development.

Some of that land has been protected under other programs, said David G. Burke, director of the DNR's Chesapeake and Coastal Watershed Service.

"People made good, intuitive decisions without the background information that we've compiled," he said. "But there's more to do. Greenprint attempts to weave together a network of land of the highest ecological value."

Other land-preservation efforts are administered by local officials seeking state funds. Greenprint would be administered on a statewide scale.

"Land is purchased in an unpredictable pattern [under the other programs]," Burke said. "But in this program, the pattern is everything."

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