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County among tops in state in spending Rural Legacy grant money

January 11, 2002

County among tops in state in spending Rural Legacy grant money



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Washington County is one of the top counties in the state when it comes to spending its Rural Legacy grant money quickly to protect rural land from development, according to a Maryland Department of Natural Resources report.

The report said Washington County has spent 92.5 percent of the state money allotted it during the program's four years.

The state average was about 60 percent.

Four jurisdictions spent 100 percent of their funds.

"Absolutely, Washington County is doing great," said John Surrick, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Gov. Parris Glendening has urged counties to spend the Rural Legacy money as soon as possible, Land Preservation Administrator Eric Seifarth said. How fast counties spend money is a factor in how much money they get in subsequent years, he said.

In response to Glendening's prompting, Washington County has been spending its money on larger properties, Seifarth said.

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The county uses the money to buy land easements from property owners with the goal of protecting land around Antietam National Battlefield from development.

Under the program, property owners retain ownership of the land but are paid in exchange for agreeing to protect their land from development, and other restrictions.

Since the program began distributing money in 1998, Washington County has spent $5.25 million to buy easements on more than 2,100 acres of land under the Rural Legacy program, Seifarth said.

The county is working with four property owners to buy an additional 177 acres of easements, he said.

The county is going to ask for $4.8 million more in state funds for the next fiscal year, he said. He said he doesn't expect the county to get the full amount, especially with a tight budget, but thinks it is worth a try.

The county's Rural Legacy area encompasses 37,000 acres from Antietam to South Mountain. That area was chosen for its historical, agricultural and environmental importance, Seifarth said.

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