Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 24, 2005

Land conservation important for future

The Maryland legislature passed a law of special significance to all who value Maryland and Harford County's commitment to land conservation. SB306 prevents the sale of state lands by current and future administrations without a public process of oversight and approval by the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, this law became necessary when it was learned last year that important and environmentally sensitive public lands in St. Mary's County were quietly being sold to a developer with political connections. It was subsequently revealed that there was also an in-house "for sale" list at the Department of Natural Resources that included Harford County's beloved and scenic Kilgore Falls and Falling Branch Park.

There was general outrage that the Falls could potentially fall into private hands after public-spirited high school students, the Harford Land Trust and many other community groups had worked together to preserve it.

When the Falls was purchased by the state in 1994 with Program Open Space funds, we thought we were "home free" and had added to Harford County's considerable assets one that our children and grandchildren could enjoy for years to come. Now we truly know the adage, "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

Thanks go to all who responded to calls-to-action from a the lobbying coalition called Partners For Open Space and worked to protect public funding levels for open space, prevent the wholesale sale of public lands and highlight the long-established tradition of land conservation in Maryland.

It is now generally understood how needed these programs are as we try to increase our inventory for farmland preservation and parks and recreation needs -- lands for picnics and woodland walks, ball fields and team sports, and access to scenic waterways. Our county population has been growing so rapidly that the inventory of open space had not been able to keep pace.

A reminder to all: There will be a constitutional amendment for approval on the November 2006 ballot. This amendment will reinforce the new July 1, 2005, law on the sale of public lands by inserting additional safeguards in the state Constitution. It will hold our elected officials accountable for the promises they have made and will make to protect open space.

Ann C. Helton

The writer is president of the Harford Land Trust.

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