A regional nonprofit group has been awarded $2.5 million, designated to conserving land in a rural legacy area in St. Mary’s County.
The Maryland Board of Public Works last week approved recommendations of more than $18.8 million in rural legacy grants for conservation easements in 18 counties. Funding from these grants will permanently protect more than 4,500 acres of working farms, forests, open space, shorelines and wetlands — plus cultural and historical resources — throughout the state. The recommendations also include six rural legacy area expansions, which provide the opportunity to protect more than 172,000 more acres.
“Since I became governor, our administration has been committed to restoring funding for our world-renowned land conservation programs and making progress toward our goals for the Chesapeake Bay, and we have followed through on that promise,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a press release. “These grants will preserve and protect our agricultural, environmental and historical areas across the state for generations to come.”
The Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development nonprofit group received more than $2.5 million in grant funds, the largest award in the state, last week for the St. Mary’s Mattapany Rural Legacy Area south of Lexington Park, to match Navy Readiness and Environmental Integration funds to acquire conservation easements to protect the area’s rich farmland, forest wetlands, historic sites and wildlife habitat. Conservation within the area will provide water quality benefits to the Chesapeake Bay and St. Mary’s River watersheds.
The Mattapany Rural Legacy Area, designated in 2006, is now comprised of 16,850 acres of land located just south of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, extending along the Chesapeake Bay and Route 5 down to St. Jerome’s Creek and surrounding the Webster Field Annex.
Participation in the rural legacy area program is voluntary but “if a landowner within the area is willing to take part, they will get compensated,” according to Cindy Greb, executive director of the Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development.
Land may still be utilized for agricultural reasons, passed down within a family, or sold, but participation in the program limits the ability to subdivide a property to its full potential, she said.
Greb told The Enterprise “it’s a long collaborative effort on everyone’s part, including the landowner, that results in the overall program’s viability.”
Recognizing the benefits, as well as the need to protect local quality of life and rural character, St. Mary’s County provides a portion of matching funds for conservation easements through its land preservation program, in addition to the significant matching funding from the Navy’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program.
With the combination of the three funding sources, the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area will be expanded to increase the number of landowners who will be eligible.
The SMRCD “is very excited about this new grant award, as it will allow us to continue providing alternatives to landowners in the county, ultimately protecting ecologically important land, the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and the military’s mission in our community,” Greb said. “We feel very fortunate to be able to implement programs that have such multi-faceted and long-term positive effects on our community.”
The nonprofit is currently preparing its grant application for fiscal 2021 rural legacy program funding, which is due to the state by mid-February.
Landowners in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area, roughly bounded by Hermanville Road to the north and the routes 5 and 235 intersection to the south, who are interested in participating in the program should contact Resource Conservation and Development by Friday, Jan. 24, to verify their eligibility. For more information, call 240-577-6413, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.somdrcd.org.