Maryland the Beautiful
By Sara Ramotnik, Policy Manager
The Old Line State. America in miniature. The Free State. The Bay State. For me, it’s the land that I love. Boundless titles exist for the mighty state of Maryland, but a new one is resounding throughout the state this year: Maryland the Beautiful.
Maryland’s 2022 General Assembly session began in January with an unprecedented budget surplus of $4.6 billion and given the increased use of open spaces throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many anticipate this could be a banner year for conservation legislation. HB 1031/ SB 791, more popularly known as Maryland the Beautiful, is a groundbreaking bill introduced this year by Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Eric Luedtke. Maryland the Beautiful establishes conservation goals for the state, empowers conservation efforts and makes greenspace more equitable state-wide. Passage of the legislation would position Maryland as a national leader in conservation.
Creating a Conservation Goal
Through setting a goal of conserving 30 percent of Maryland lands by 2030 and 40 percent by 2040, we are ensuring the existence of open space for future generations to enjoy. Permanently protected agricultural lands and working forests, the core of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s work, all count toward the bill’s conservation goal, and the legislation emphasizes the need to keep those lands working. Thanks to conservation-minded landowners, state funding commitments, and the work of organizations like ESLC, much progress has been made. Maryland the Beautiful legislation will help us do even more, which is why we are working in Annapolis to get the legislation passed.
Empowering Land Trusts
Often an important parcel hits the real estate market, but the surrounding community would prefer a conservation alternative to ensure the land remains open space. Most land trusts are poorly suited to act as quickly as necessary, as trying to assemble the necessary funds from donors simply takes too long and conservation opportunities are missed. Maryland the Beautiful legislation would create a revolving loan fund to enable conservation organizations to access funding quickly and protect important parcels that might otherwise be developed.
Enhancing Our Urban Greenspace
Land trusts often rely on the Rural Legacy Fund, which provides funding to preserve large, contiguous tracts of lands that enhance natural resources, agricultural productivity, forestry, and ecosystem health. This bill establishes the Greenspace Equity Program, which mirrors the Rural Legacy Fund and provides a new source of grant funding for private land trusts and local governments to complete greenspace projects in underserved communities. We envision this program providing urban communities on the Eastern Shore with enhanced access to green space such as parks, community gardens and trail connections.
If you’d like to join the effort to pass the Maryland the Beautiful Act, please reach out to your state lawmakers and express your support for the legislation, or be in touch with Sara Ramotnik at email@example.com who can help you get involved.