MD’s Program Open Space Receives Full Funding

Annapolis, MD, January 16, 2006: The Partners for Open Space, an alliance of more than 130 groups throughout Maryland including The Trust for Public Land, applauded Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s announcement today to restore full funding to the state’s nationally recognized Program Open Space for fiscal 2007.

One of the nation’s premier land preservation programs since its inception in 1969, Program Open Space provides funding from a dedicated revenue source to acquire lands that protect water quality, conserve natural areas, and create parks. The program has been hamstrung in the last four years, with hundreds of millions of dollars meant for land conservation diverted to unrelated purposes.

In Maryland, popular support for this program runs deep. A recent poll of Maryland voters shows overwhelming support for Program Open Space, with nearly nine out of 10 voters indicating that they favor land conservation. Three-quarters disapprove of the diversion of Program Open Space funds, and 72 percent said they would support a law to protect Program Open Space from future diversions.

“We are delighted by the Governor’s decision,” said Denise Schlener, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Chesapeake and Central Appalachians Field Office. “Clearly he is listening to the call of Maryland’s citizens that funds dedicated for land conservation should be used for that purpose.”

Program Open Space’s funding source—a transfer tax on the sale of real estate—is designed to allow the state and counties to keep pace with development and the rising cost of preserving land. In more than 35 years, Program Open Space has been hugely successful, protecting over 800,000 acres from development and creating more than 4,350 parks and recreational areas that serve millions of state residents.

“There is no better tool to ensure that as Maryland grows, our quality of life improves as well,” said Tom Ross, executive director of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association. “Full funding for Program Open Space helps insure that future generations of Marylanders will have access to parks, playgrounds, ball fields, and open space areas that provide close to home recreation opportunities.”

“It is now up to the General Assembly to follow the Governor’s lead and protect full funding for the program,” said Marcia Verploegen Lewis, campaign director for Partners for Open Space. “We also call on the legislature to speed up the repayment of funds previously diverted that could have conserved thousands of acres of critically important natural areas and farmland.”

Partners for Open Space is a statewide coalition of groups seeking to secure, save and protect Maryland’s land conservation programs. The 130-plus member coalition represents hundreds of thousands of Marylanders and includes a wide range of groups led by The Trust for Public Land, the American Farmland Trust, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Maryland Public Interest Research Group, Maryland Recreation and Parks Association, 1000 Friends of Maryland, and The Nature Conservancy.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than two million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 7,000 acres in Maryland.