State offers $25 million to save land; Rural Legacy Board OKs 17 preservation projects statewide; 'A huge demand out there'; Howard, Baltimore, Anne Arundel counties' plans are top winners


Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties were three of the big winners yesterday, as a state board approved handing out millions of dollars to save environmentally prized lands.

In action taken by the Rural Legacy Board yesterday and approved last night by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, 17 preservation projects across the state will collect a pot worth $25 million, while five came up empty-handed.

All 23 counties, some of which submitted joint proposals, asked for money totaling more than $90 million in what has fast become one of the most competitive bidding for funding in the state.

Baltimore County will get $1.2 million to buy threatened acres in Long Green Valley and along the Gunpowder River when all of yesterday's votes are approved by the Board of Public Works next month.

Anne Arundel County will also take home $1.2 million, to start buying a strip of 9,000 acres in the southern county that runs from the Patuxent River to the Chesapeake Bay.

Howard County, whose two proposals initially scored the lowest of all 23 counties' projects, was saved after Rural Legacy Board member Sarah Taylor Rogers, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, spoke in favor of one of them. The county wound up with $1.5 million to support efforts to buy land in the Upper Patuxent River watershed.

Carroll County, which had asked for $16 million to preserve Little Pipe Creek, received one of the smallest grants at $750,000.

Montgomery, Frederick and Calvert counties each received the largest chunks--$2 million each --for projects that also received funding last year to preserve farmland and Battle Creek. Calvert County's second proposal, to buy land around St. Leonard's Creek, was rejected when Howard County's proposal was raised from the bottom of the list.

Each county went through an often grueling application process strung out over six months during which each attempted to outshine the competition with videos, slide shows, singing schoolchildren and live demonstrations of farming techniques.

Program officials say the presentations and maneuvering get more elaborate every year.

In an interview last night, Glendening said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens pleaded her county's case in person, and it didn't surprise him at all.

"There is just a huge demand out there," he said. "I wish we could fund them all.

The Rural Legacy program, which Glendening started two years ago as part of his Smart Growth initiative to curb suburban sprawl, helps counties buy large tracts of farm and forest land.

William H. Hussman, chairman of the board's 11-member advisory committee that reviewed the applications and sat through days of presentations by the different counties, said it was hard not to feel bad for many of the projects turned down, including ones in Wicomico, Queen Anne's, Calvert, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Many of the other counties received small grants.

"It seemed everyone put hundreds of hours into their proposals," said Hussman, who is also chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board. "You want to protect them all. Every group had land worth protecting and they were so enthusiastic, but it came down to the fact that we had only 25 percent of the money they were all asking for."

Baltimore County, which was one of the only counties to receive funding for two projects, apparently left a lasting impression.

"I've never seen such depth of community-based support as what we saw in Baltimore County," he said.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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