A unique string of bogs near the Magothy River could receive additional environmental protection from the state as early as next month.
Maryland Department of the Environment has proposed marking 10 fragile bogs as wetlands of state concern, a designation that only the largest bog has now. The aim is to keep development from encroaching on the Ice Age relics.
Environmentalists hope this action will be the start of several protective measures for the swath they are calling the biodiversity hot spot of the state because of the rare plants that grow only in bogs.
The additional measures have the support of people in the area who see an opportunity to keep the peninsula a desirable place to live by leaving open space and preventing development that they say threatens to overwhelm schools and roads.
The state designation, which so far applies to one bog on the Pasadena peninsula, would create a 100-foot buffer around each bog in what officials are calling the "Mountain Road peninsula bog complex." Proposed land-use changes, including construction, in the buffer would require state and county permits and would have to show that the bogs would be unaffected. The buffer now is 25 feet.
"One hundred feet [of buffer] is a lot better. Is it enough by itself? Absolutely not. But this at least guarantees a review" of adjacent land use, said bog expert Keith Underwood.
He suspects that the bogs, which are on nutrient-poor sandy soil, are interrelated. He advocates long-term study of the bogs to include water monitoring, dating bog material, cataloging plants and insects, and plant genetics.
"These [bogs] are unique in that they take thousands of years to achieve. They are extremely fragile, and runoff can spoil them," said Melvin Bender, president of the Magothy River Land Trust. "Along the Magothy, to have something this precious, it needs protection. You can always build homes, but you can't always get a bog."
Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, said she hopes the designation will prompt the state or county to purchase some of the bogs and to place environmental easements on others and areas that drain into them. Anne Arundel County has been negotiating with one landowner, and talks with other owners may follow.
"The area down here is too nice to be destroyed," said James Bilenki, co-chairman of the Mountain Road Peninsula Preservation Committee.
To expedite the addition of bogs to wetland regulations, MDE is listing the bogs under emergency regulations for consideration by the Administrative Executive Legislative Review, a panel of legislators across the state.
The state agency has scheduled a May 3 meeting at Chesapeake Senior High School to explain the proposed measures to the public. Information will be available at 6 p.m. A presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session, will begin at 7 p.m.
Officials have known about five of the coastal bogs for years. But in June, environmentalists found more. They contain what environmentalists believe are the largest stands of rare native bamboo and yellow-fringed orchids in the state, as well as most of the shrubby leatherleaf and pitcher plants in the state, experts said. Bogs also contain unique insects, worms, bacteria and fungi, and experts suspect that each bog may have genetically unique species.
"Because of the amount of development pressure that is taking place, the citizens out there want this protection," said Richard McIntire, MDE spokesman.