After years of steady support for conservation, I am disheartened to hear that Gov. Martin O'Malley has decided to cut funds for land preservation programs in his proposed 2015 budget ("O'Malley shifts funds from land preservation," Jan. 16).
As a lifelong resident of the Chesapeake Watershed and past chairman of the board of the Howard County Conservancy, I have seen the value of protecting open space and connecting people to the land and our agricultural resources.
There are a number of ways we have tried to do this. On a local basis, the Howard County Conservancy holds donated easements on over 1,500 acres around the county, including historic homes. It provides volunteer opportunities and education to our residents about the importance of land conservation.
The land conserved through Maryland's Program Open Space works in tandem with the lands maintained by the conservancy and other nonprofits throughout the state to create a mosaic of natural areas and recreation areas across Maryland. It is one of our greatest assets that we can enjoy, learn from and pass on to future generations.
In addition to these preservation efforts, the state's Program Open Space funding has helped our county provide recreational opportunities to local communities (e.g., Western Regional Park) and preserve important natural areas (e.g., Robinson Nature Area).
State funds have also helped us acquire other properties (e.g., Meadowbrook Park) that accomplish both.
All the counties in Maryland are dependent on Program Open Space funds for acquisition of recreational lands. Without these funds the counties will have a difficult time meeting the recreational needs of our growing population.
These lands are important so that future generations have the opportunity to get outside for recreation and to learn about the natural world, fostering an early stewardship ethic.
The proposed funding cuts mean fewer projects and a lack of these outdoor and recreational opportunities. We have made great progress in conservation in Maryland, and I hope that our important land conservation programs will receive the funding they deserve in this budget.
Ned Tillman, Columbia
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