MD Land Trusts to Increase Chesapeake Efforts

Annapolis, MD, 2/28/2002 — The Maryland land trust community, represented by local, regional and national land trusts today pledged to increase efforts to protect land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in order to help achieve the land preservation goals outlined in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. Thirty-one land trusts, representing thousands of Maryland citizens in every Maryland county, signed the commitment. This pledge was presented to Governor Parris N. Glendening, state legislators and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The land trust community also called on the General Assembly to do their part by ensuring continued state funding for land preservation initiatives.

The Chesapeake 2000 Agreement established a goal of protecting 20% of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2010-an additional 1.1 million acres.

“Achieving the commitments of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement will be challenging and will require the combined efforts of farmers, watermen and all of the watershed’s residents,” said Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening. “I want to thank the land trust community for making this commitment, and continuing an essential land preservation partnership which protects the quality of life for Maryland’s future generations, as well as the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Through this commitment, land trusts pledge to help accomplish this land preservation commitment by permanently securing land and conservation easements for natural resource, forestry, agriculture, wildlife, recreation, historic, cultural or open space use, or to sustain water quality and living resource values. During the 1990s, approximately 21.5% of the land conserved throughout the watershed in Maryland was protected through private initiatives.

“Restoring the Bay’s water quality is a tremendous challenge. Recognizing that our natural resource lands are incredibly efficient at capturing stormwater runoff, filtering air and water pollutants, and reducing erosion, we must redouble our land preservation efforts. This commitment by the land trust community gets us moving in the right direction,” said Senator Brian E. Frosh.

“If we are to meet the protection goal set out in Chesapeake 2000, we will have to better our record of the last decade,” said Nick Williams of the Maryland Land Trust Alliance, a network of private nonprofit conservation organizations working to preserve and protect farmland, natural resources, wildlife habitat, scenic views, historic sites, and open space throughout Maryland. “Land trusts throughout the state provide expertise, private funding, donations of easements, and countless hours of volunteer work for land-saving transactions in the Bay watershed.”

Land trusts throughout the state have embraced the pledge and are making specific plans for ways in which to carry out this commitment in their communities. For example, in conjunction with this pledge, the Eastern Shore Conservancy recently committed to double its efforts, which means protecting 50,000 acres between the years 2000 and 2010.

“A goal has been set that is not achievable by any one agency, organization or individual; but working together, land trusts, landowners, and local state and federal agencies can succeed in protecting the Chesapeake Bay through land conservation,” said Harry Hughes, former Governor of Maryland and chairman of the board of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. “State programs like Program Open Space, GreenPrint and Rural Legacy are vehicles available to carry us toward Maryland’s land protection goal. We are at a point now where we must decide if we will continue to fuel them, or force them to merely coast, gaining little ground.”

As with all state programs, funds for land conservation are in jeopardy. “It is important to remember that land conservation is a cost-effective method of protecting the Chesapeake Bay. We pay the price of buying land and easements once, but if we allow the Chesapeake Bay to become further compromised, we will be paying for generations to come,” said Delegate Charles A. McClenahan, chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s Maryland Delegation.

Signed by the Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in June 2000, the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement is intended to guide the next decade of restoration in the watershed. Keeping Our Commitment: Preserving Land in the Chesapeake Watershed, a historic report released in 2001 by the Trust for Public Land and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, documents the need to protect an additional 1.1 million acres of the watershed, and calls for $1.8 billion in new local, state and federal funding to meet that goal.