Our rural legacy Preservation funds: Governor's program wisely targets large tracts of Maryland's most valuable lands.


THIS WEEK and next, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is announcing the first round of cash awards for his Rural Legacy land preservation program. All Marylanders have an interest in this effort, whether or not they live in rural areas.

None of us want our children and grandchildren to inherit a state strewn with highways and housing developments. But if trends do not change, Central Maryland alone will lose as much land to development in the next 25 years as it has since the state's founding.

The Rural Legacy program is an important component of the governor's "smart growth" initiative, designed to direct building to developed areas. It will work with other preservation programs, such as agricultural preservation, easement donations and parks.

Useful as they are, these methods sometimes occur piecemeal. Rural Legacy, through voluntary sale of land and development rights to the government, targets large tracts that are valuable for more than one reason.

Northwestern Baltimore County's Piney Run area, for example, received Rural Legacy funds because it is a solid agricultural region and a vital and beautiful watershed, with numerous historic districts.

To generate widespread support for Rural Legacy, the first $29 million is being spread thinly among 14 areas. Other worthy beneficiaries include the Little Pipe Creek watershed in Carroll County and Civil War sites in Frederick and Washington counties.

This is a start. Assuming the program outlasts this administration, Rural Legacy may preserve up to 200,000 acres by the year 2011. Local governments can enhance that effort; Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger has added $5 million to enlarge on the state program.

Bear in mind that preservation is but one component of "smart lTC growth" -- and by far the easiest. The real challenge will be on agreeing how to steer development to keep it from further encroaching on rural areas.

Pub Date: 6/11/98

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