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Rural Legacy

LAND PRESERVATION THROUGH THE RURAL LEGACY PROGRAM

 

St. Mary’s County is situated on a peninsula in Southern Maryland with over 500 miles of shoreline on the Patuxent River, Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. As the southernmost point in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay's western shore, St. Mary’s County is one of the most ecologically and environmentally sensitive lands in the country.

 

Home to over 105,000 residents, St. Mary’s County is also the home base for the Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters (NavAir), the Air Test Wing Atlantic Command, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Command. With over 200 high-tech aerospace and defense contractors, the county has emerged as a world-class center for maritime aviation research, development, testing, evaluation, and acquisition. The area combines access to technology with a rich heritage and a myriad of outdoor sports and recreational opportunities. The county’s location allows for easy access to major metropolitan areas while offering residents a high quality of life and affordable lifestyles.

 

As such, the county realizes the importance of combining land preservation and protection of its natural resources with the responsibility of supporting the Navy’s mission in our community. Commitment to these major objectives has resulted in a strong successful land preservation program that is now supported by and funded by three sources: Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources Rural Legacy Program, St. Mary’s County’s Land Preservation Program, and the Department of Defense (DOD)’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program.

 

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program:

 

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program provides funding 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. The program creates public-private partnerships and allows those who know the landscape best – land trusts and local governments – to determine the best way to protect the landscapes that are critical to our economy, environment and quality of life. This program encourages local governments and private land trusts to work together to identify Rural Legacy Areas and to competitively apply for funds to complement existing land preservation efforts or to develop new ones, thereby protecting their vital working landscapes. Easements or fee estate purchases are sought from willing landowners in order to protect areas vulnerable to sprawl development that can weaken an area’s natural resources, thereby jeopardizing the economic value of farming, forestry, recreation and tourism.

 

Land conservation investments are targeted to protect the most ecologically valuable properties that most directly impact Chesapeake Bay and local waterway health.

 

The Rural Legacy Program was created to discourage sprawl development and protect areas for future generations to enjoy. The Program provides farmers and landowners an alternative to developing (or subdividing) their land or selling their property to developers. Under the Program they can sell or donate their development rights and still retain ownership to continue growing crops or raising livestock.

 

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program was enacted by the General Assembly in 1997 to preserve valuable farmland, forests, and natural areas. For more information, visit http://dnr.maryland.gov/land/Pages/RuralLegacy/home.aspx

 

St. Mary’s County’s Land Preservation Program:

 

The 2002 St. Mary’s County Comprehensive Plan forms the policy framework for County goals and objectives for parks, recreation and open space, agricultural land preservation, and natural resource protection. The general strategy is to preserve and protect rural agricultural and natural resource lands by channeling growth into the three development area tiers, the Development Districts of Lexington Park and Town of Leonardtown, five designated town centers, and the village centers, while protecting and preserving rural lands through zoning, a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) program, the Rural Legacy program, and supporting private land trusts.

 

Department of Defense (DOD)’s REPI Program:

 

The Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program enhances military readiness by preventing, mitigating, or reducing restrictions on the timing, frequency, and type of training activities caused by encroachment. REPI does this by promoting compatible development and protecting valuable habitat that supports unconstrained training, testing, and operations. In addition, REPI gives base commanders supportive tools through education, innovative strategies and pilot projects, and transfer of case studies addressing regulatory barriers to help increase their flexibility in meeting mission requirements.

 

The Department of Defense (DoD)’s REPI Program is a key tool for combating encroachment hat can limit or restrict military training, testing, and operations. The REPI Program protects these military missions by helping remove or avoid land-use conflicts near installations and addressing regulatory restrictions that inhibit military activities. The REPI Program is administered by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).

 

A key component of the REPI Program is the use of buffer partnerships among the Military Services, private conservation groups, and state and local governments, authorized by Congress at 10 U.S.C. §2684a. These win-win partnerships share the cost of acquisition of easements or other interests in land from willing sellers to preserve compatible land uses and natural habitats near installations and ranges that helps sustain critical, at-risk military mission capabilities.

 

REPI also supports large landscape partnerships that advance cross-boundary solutions and link military readiness, conservation, and communities with federal and state partners through a common, collaborative framework. Such partnerships include the Southeastern Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS) and the Western Regional Partnership (WRP), and REPI also participates in the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership among DoD and the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior.

 

Since its first partnerships in 2003, REPI has grown and fostered a sea-change in how DoD responds to conservation and military training issues and engages in outside-the-fence land use planning. Engaging with all stakeholders at the federal, state, and local level, REPI continues to explore policy and regulatory solutions to incompatible development, off-installation species habitat, and other mission sustainability issues.

 

For more information on the Navy’s REPI Program, visit http://www.repi.mil

 

RURAL LEGACY AREAS:

 

While some counties may only have one rural legacy area, St. Mary’s County is fortunate to have two designated rural legacy areas that are receiving zones for land preservation funding: the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area and the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area.

 

Huntersville Rural Legacy Area:

The current Huntersville Rural Legacy Area is located in the northern end of the county and comprises of 8,896 acres, of which approximately 3,029 acres are held in conservation by Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust (PTLT) and its partners. PTLT’s mission is to acquire and hold conservation easements by purchase or donation on ecologically valuable land for future generations to enjoy. PTLT has partnered with DNR, the County, and the Navy and is the sole administrator of the Rural Legacy Program in the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area.

 

PTLT is currently exploring an expansion to the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area to include areas south of Charlotte Hall and into the Hollywood area, where additional grant funding could be available through the Navy’s REPI Program. The St. Mary’s County-based land conservation organization seeks input from landowners in the proposed Huntersville expansion area, which would cover forested interior areas from the northern St. Mary’s County line to the southern branch of the McIntosh Run. The proposed expansion would add more than 9,000 acres of agricultural and forested land protecting headwaters of nine additional streams and the associated steep slopes in central and northern parts of the county. Properties within the Rural Legacy Area may qualify for conservation easement purchase funding through Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program (RLP). The RLP creates public-private partnerships between landowners, local land trusts, and local governments to determine the best ways to preserve critically important farm and forest lands.

 

The proposed expansion aligns with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Patuxent River Regional

Conservation Partnership, the Department of Defense Remediation and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program implemented by the U.S Navy, and St. Mary’s County’s rural land preservation goals, as well as those of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

“The McIntosh Run watershed is currently one of the most ecologically intact watersheds remaining in Maryland, containing large blocks of contiguous forest, which provide habitat for forest interior birds and other wildlife in addition to insuring that water quality in the stream is adequate to support the aquatic life” says Daniel Murphy, Chief of USFWS’s Division of Habitat Conservation.

 

“In addition to the McIntosh Run, the proposed expansion will protect miles of streams and

streambanks, acres of dense, contiguous forest, forested steep slopes, bottomland wetlands and

headwater stream seeps” says Andrew Garte, PTLT Executive Director and lead designer of the RLA expansion.

 

Landowners in the proposed expansion area are encouraged to contact PTLT for more information or to offer comments. PTLT will also hold a public presentation about the proposed expansion in October. Contact PTLT Executive Director Andrew Garte at 410.533.0042 or Andrew@patuxenttidewater.org or check at http://www.patuxent-tidewater.org/

 

For more information on the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area please contact Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust (PTLT) by calling 301.863.3421 or visiting http://www.patuxent-tidewater.org/

 

Mattapany Rural Legacy Area:

The Mattapany Rural Legacy Area was established to manage impacts of growth on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, to protect water quality, green infrastructure hubs identified by Maryland DNR, and endangered species, and, to minimize conflicts between potential future development and military operations at the NAS Patuxent River and Webster Field facilities. In January 2006, the state designated and granted funding for this second Rural Legacy Area in St. Mary's County. That same year, the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County purchased 159 acres referred to as the Fenwick Property, which has become the cornerstone of the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area. To date, over 4,300 acres have been preserved in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area through the utilization of the different land preservation programs that are available.

The 16,850 acres of land that now make up the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area is located just south of the NAS Pax River Naval Base - extending along the Chesapeake Bay and Route 5 down to St. Jerome’s Creek and surrounding the Webster Field Annex.

Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Board has partnered with DNR, the County, and the Navy and is the sole administrator of the Rural Legacy Program in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area. RC&D is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and land trust serving the Southern Maryland counties of Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s. Since their establishment in 1971, they have completed hundreds of conservation, agriculture and community development projects in the region. Their partners and sponsors include private citizens, community associations, local businesses, schools, fire and rescue squads, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, nonprofits and local, State and Federal agencies.

 

In the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area, RLP funds are typically used in conjunction with Federal REPI funds and County Land Preservation Funds. REPI typically contributes 50% of the easement cost; St. Mary’s County typically contributes 25% of the easement cost; with the State RLP contributing an average of 25% of the cost of the easement, as well as 100% of the cost of administering the easement (incidentals, administration, and compliance fees). The Federal government, through the REPI program, has committed a tremendous amount of money to facilitate the success of the program. The Atlantic Test Ranges (ATR), consisting of land, air, and sea ranges in the Chesapeake Bay area, is the Navy’s principal location for the research, development, test, and evaluation of Naval aircraft. The range’s restricted airspace is a critical national asset that allows for training missions and the concurrent testing of multiple new aircraft, including unmanned aerial systems. This restricted airspace, as well as Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River (ATR’s host installation) and Outlying Field (OLF) Webster, encompasses a vast ecologically sensitive area, including part of Maryland’s Eastern Shore of the

Chesapeake Bay. Due to the inherent risk in test flights, as well as the noise from aircraft including supersonic operations), the Navy is working to limit incompatible development underneath the test range airspace and installation flight routes to increase safety and quality of life. Another benefit to the mission is preventing increased conflicts in the use of frequency spectrum, allowing for testing of communications equipment and other electronics. Acquiring easements under the restricted airspace and around NAS Patuxent River and OLF Webster also limits development of waterfront parcels and protects the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. In addition, these projects also help sustain local agriculture and commercial and recreational fishing economies. Meanwhile, ATR and NAS Patuxent River can continue providing the test and evaluation capabilities that ensure safe and effective high-performance aircraft and aviation systems.

 

St. Mary's County has continued to show their commitment to the land preservation program and partnering with the Navy and the State to successfully preserve property in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area. In so doing, not only are the County’s dollars more effectively leveraged with the other sources of funding, but it’s critical that the County illustrate their commitment to supporting the Navy and its mission in our community.

  

For more information, or to see if your property qualifies for this program in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area, please contact Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) by calling their office at 240.577.6413 or visiting http://www.somdrcd.org/