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County gets $750,000 to preserve local land

April 07, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Washington County will receive $750,000 in state grants that can be used to preserve forest and farmland here.

The Maryland Board of Public Works announced Wednesday that Gov. Martin O'Malley approved more than $21 million in fiscal year 2008 funds to be distributed to 21 local governments and land trusts across the state as part of the Rural Legacy Program.

The county's portion of those funds will be used to preserve two properties, according to Eric Seifarth, the county's rural preservation administrator.

The Rural Legacy Program provides money "to preserve large, contiguous tracts of land and to enhance natural resource, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection while supporting a sustainable land base for natural resource-based industries," according to a press release from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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Since it was enacted in 1997, the program has provided more than $163 million to preserve 58,217 acres of land in Maryland, the release states.

In Washington County, the program has preserved 3,900 acres on 28 properties with a total of $10.9 million, Seifarth said.

Under the program, the county uses the grant money to purchase development rights on the properties, which allows the county to prevent development on agricultural, historical or environmentally sensitive land, Seifarth said.

Seifarth said the properties are not publicly identified until a notice for public hearing is published in the paper.

He said the county keeps a list of people who are interested in the program and ranks their properties by a series of criteria.

The Washington County Commissioners have to approve the purchases.

The Rural Legacy Program is one of several land-preservation initiatives that affect Washington County.

In total, about $6.5 million was spent to preserve land in the county in fiscal year 2008, Seifarth said. That money preserved about 1,100 acres.

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