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New DNR Land Preservation Criteria Proposed
Environmental Benefits of Lands Prioritized to Maximize Limited Resources
ANNAPOLIS, MD: At today’s Board of Public Works (BPW) Meeting, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John R. Griffin and staff presented the agency’s new proposed plan for targeting state land preservation areas through Program Open Space (POS). A key component of Governor Martin O’Malley’s BayStat Initiative, the new criteria is designed to prioritize preservation of lands that will provide the most significant environmental benefits, while providing for appropriate public recreation opportunities such as trails and Bay access.
“The citizens of Maryland expect and deserve to see a return on their restoration investments. The new science-based criteria for prioritizing land for preservation will maximize DNR’s portion of Program Open Space dollars by ensuring that our efforts are as strategic and effective as possible,” said Governor O’Malley. “We remain committed to our pledge to protect Maryland’s natural lands and special places through Program Open Space and Maryland’s role as a national leader in land conservation.”
Soon after the first BayStat meetings in February, an interdisciplinary team within DNR began drafting the new proposed criteria. Under the new draft criteria, DNR will first target areas for acquisition based on their ecological significance, utilizing the updated Green Infrastructure Plan to identify high priority conservation areas. Only 30 percent of the 2.4 million acres of Maryland’s Green Infrastructure is currently protected.
Properties will then be analyzed under implementation criteria, including Bay tributary strategies, geographic balance, available funding, and potential partners, to select annual proposed target areas. Finally, to prioritize individual parcels within targeted areas, properties will undergo a parcel ranking to assess different benefits and management options. While a majority of funding will go towards protection of high priority conservation areas, some funding will remain available for acquiring properties outside of the updated Green Infrastructure Plan that offer unique active recreational, Bay access, cultural and historical protection, and in-holding acquisition opportunities.
“This new criteria will enable DNR to more strategically preserve open space and working landscapes, particularly important considering that our conservation opportunities always exceed available funding,” said Secretary Griffin. “We look forward to working with our partners across Maryland to finalize this plan and strengthen Program Open Space.”
Over the next several weeks, DNR staff will work closely with local planning and recreation officials, land trusts, conservation organizations, and other partners to further refine the proposed criteria and ranking system. Implementation of the new criteria will increase transparency of the land acquisition process.
“We are excited that this new land conservation plan under the Governor’s leadership will provide a systematic approach for acquiring the best possible open space and park lands for the State of Maryland,” said Marcia Verploegen Lewis, Director of Partners for Open Space.
Success of the targeted effort will be measured and reported through BayStat. BayStat will specifically measure progress on annual acreage goals and quarterly track such items as:
- State dollars spent protecting updated Green Infrastructure and dollars spent for other purposes;
- The percentage of total Program Open Space acquisition dollars and acres protecting targeted priority conservation areas;
- Cost per acre by county;
- Dollars leveraged through partnerships or below market value offers;
- Acres of updated Green Infrastructure restored; and
- The percentage of new acres acquired in areas with complimentary conservation zoning.
Click here for full power point presentation.
Since 1969, Program Open Space has preserved nearly 321,000 acres of natural lands and working farms for open space and recreation areas. Most Maryland residents live within 15 minutes of an open space or recreational area funded by this program.
Established by Governor O’Malley via Executive Order, BayStat measures and evaluates Maryland’s efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
August 22, 2007
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov