Thursday, February 11, 2016

Maryland Buys Back Some Eastern Shore

In one of the largest acquisitions of its kind, the Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved funding to secure 3,486 acres of prime forest land on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore for economic, environmental and recreation purposes.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will manage the property as part of its Chesapeake Forest Lands, helping to preserve the state’s sustainable forest products industry.

“This acquisition will help the state solidify its significant progress toward meeting our Chesapeake Bay Agreement goals by safeguarding important natural resources, including land and water within the watershed,” Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said.  “Even more, Maryland’s natural resource-based economies and industries, like paper and timber will see benefits, as the new tracts will provide for a sustainable timber harvest and increased hunting and recreation opportunities.”
And why couldn't they provide timber harvest, hunting and recreation in private hands?
Purchased at a discount for $6.53 million with funding from Program Open Space, the property is comprised of forested tracts spanning three counties: 623 acres in Somerset, 972 in Wicomico and 1,890 in Worcester. This acquisition was done in cooperation with The Conservation Fund, and will help Maryland meet conservation goals while providing for public recreation opportunities and support for natural resource-based economies.  With this acquisition, the Chesapeake Forest Lands will increase to 71,208 acres.
Unlike western states, the majority of land in most eastern states passed into private hands before the revolution, and relatively little is in the hands of the state and federal government. The state of Maryland has a very aggressive plan to get as much open space back into government hands. Given that it costs money to buy back the land, and then results in lost revenue due to the reduction in property taxes, I generally oppose such buy backs.

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