Rural Legacy Program reaches milestone

Snow Hill Park, with 1,700 feet of Patuxent River shoreline, was acquired with the help of funding through the DoD’s Readiness and Environmental Integration program. The St. Mary’s County park opened to the public July 22, 2017.

With the Board of Public Works’ approval of five new conservation easements, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program has now conserved more than 100,000 acres of land throughout the state.

The program provides funding for large tracts of land to enhance the protection of our natural resources while supporting natural resource-based industries like agriculture and forestry. Enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 1997, the first Rural Legacy conservation easement was acquired in the fiscal year 1998-1999 grant cycle.

“We have successfully worked with local partners, farmers and other landowners to conserve and maintain the rural character of our state for future generations,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said as she presented the properties for approval. “And with your approval of the items on our real property agenda today, which includes five Rural Legacy projects totaling 795 acres, we will exceed 100,000 acres protected under this incredible state program.”

NAS Patuxent River and Atlantic Test Ranges have been partnering with DNR’s Rural Legacy Program to protect lands through the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection program since 2010. Through this partnership, more than 6,000 acres of land have been preserved through easements beneath the military airspace in the Rural Legacy Areas to minimize incompatible development.

Among guests on hand was former Governor Parris Glendening, whose administration launched the Rural Legacy Program. Haddaway- Riccio thanked the members of the Board of Public Works — Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp — for their support through the years. NAVFAC Washington Realty Specialists, Christine Hays and Brittany Marshall, were also present during the event.

The easements presented for approval recently by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources represent diverse regions of Maryland — Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Worcester and Washington counties. A parcel in St. Mary’s County was also among those approved during the meeting, contributing to the 100,000-acre milestone.

NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs contributed to this article