Baltimore County's efforts to safeguard its open fields, wooded lands and wildlife have earned it recognition as a national leader in protecting natural resources in a new book by two land-use experts.
The county is listed along with 19 other jurisdictions in Nature-Friendly Communities by Chris Duerksen and Cara Snyder.
Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. today joined other local officials and land preservation proponents to celebrate the honor.
"Back when I was in the [Baltimore] County Council, we recognized the priceless value of our farmland and open space -- both for its inherent beauty as well as the environmental and quality of life benefits, not to mention the economic importance of retaining our agricultural heritage," Smith said in a statement.
"Our success today is thanks to the countless people who championed that vision, and upheld that resolve over the past four decades."
More than two-thirds of county land remains rural, and the county is more than halfway toward its goal of preserving 80,000 acres in permanent land trust, which is more than one-fifth of the total, officials said.
David Carroll, director of the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management, said "strong resource protection programs go hand-in-glove with a stable economy and a high quality of life. Baltimore County is a living, breathing example of the success of that approach."
The county's Urban-Rural Demarcation Line, created in 1967, restricts significant development from rural areas by defining the geographic limits of public water and sewer service. The county is also home to some of the most restrictive rural conservation zoning in the country and has extensive stream restoration and reforestation initiatives, according to authorities.
Nature-Friendly Communities is touted by its publisher Island Press as the first resource of its kind to provide a step-by-step guide to help government officials and planners protect open space and natural areas while promoting economic growth.
Other communities listed in the book include: Austin, Texas; Fort Collins, Colo.; Sanibel, Fla.; Dane County, Wis.; Pima County, Ariz.; Placer County, Calif.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
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August 2, 2005, 2:36 PM EDT