“By Elizabeth M. Piazza
Capital News Service
An interactive web site aimed at helping the state plan continued growth and development while preserving ecologically valuable land, was unveiled by Gov. Martin O’Malley Wednesday at a press conference in Annapolis.
GreenPrint, a web-based mapping tool, is designed to help the state, local governments, conservation organizations and individual citizens plan land conservation and development by mapping every parcel of land in the state.
Any citizen will be able to use GreenPrint to locate existing and proposed protected areas, as well as find individual parcels. The hope is that this will provide a more interactive discussion among citizens and government officials regarding land use.
Speaking to more than 150 elected officials and conservationists, including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, O’Malley stressed the need for citizens to work together to make good policy decisions regarding the future of land conservation and development.
“”We believe that progress is only possible with the full participation, the full engagement of all of those who hold what Justice Louis Brandeis called the most important political office of all, the office of citizen, of a free and great people who believe we can make a brighter and better future,”” O’Malley said.
Deciding which lands to preserve and which to develop will play a key role in Maryland’s future as the state’s population is expected to increase to 6.7 million people by 2030, a 27 percent increase from 2000. Twenty-one percent of the state is already developed and approximately 21 percent is protected.
The future will be defined by the choices we make on the remaining 58 percent, O’Malley said.
What is important about this is that it has brought the state together with county and municipal governments to share vital information, said Ken Miller, state Geographic Information Systems officer for the Department of Natural Resources. Startup costs for GreenPrint cost the Department of Natural Resources $600,000.
GreenPrint can be found at http://www.baystat.maryland.gov/.
O’Malley also announced the acquisition of nearly 9,200 acres of land that will be preserved throughout Worcester, Cecil, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.
About half of the 9,200 acres is located in Worcester County in the Nassawango Creek and Pocomoke River watersheds. The property borders the Pocomoke and Chesapeake State Forests and provides a habitat to 90 rare, threatened or endangered wildlife and plant species.
The remaining 4,500 acres, known as the Province Properties, are located in Cedar Point, St. Inigoes, New Towne Neck and Old Bohemia, and include 20 miles of shoreline along the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
The land will cost approximately $70 million – $14.4 million for the Foster Property and $56 million for the Province Properties. If approved by the Board of Public Works, Program Open Space, a Department of Natural Resources program that provides funding for state land acquisition, will pay for the land.
In addition, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin announced that $13.5 million in Rural Legacy grants will be distributed among 20 counties to preserve agricultural, forest and natural areas.
The Rural Legacy Program, which is chaired by Griffin, helps local governments and land trusts preserve ecologically vital areas from sprawl development.”