One of the greatest experiences of my life was volunteering with the Maryland Environmental Trust. I began volunteering with this Maryland State Government Agency in 1996-1998 and eagerly went back in 2006-2008. MET places voluntary land conservation easements on farms, woodlands, and historic properties. A 15-year state and local property tax exemption on the unimproved land comes with the MET easement agreement. The easements on the property are permanent, making this an excellent and effective land preservation tool.
To ensure the easements are properly maintained – landowners must agree to be monitored by MET for compliance with the stipulations of the conservation agreement. My monitoring adventures took me to huge farms in the Agricultural Reserve of Montgomery County Maryland and in Frederick Maryland. I visited forests, historic civil war easements, and emerald green meadows.
Development pressures in our suburbs have created a major loss of forest and farm habitat. The loss of quality of life for humans and wildlife is staggering. As humans, we have to think of the long – term, not just a rush to capitalize financially.
In Montgomery County Maryland, we are fortunate to have the Agricultural Reserve! This land is protected by agricultural zoning. But there are always risks being posed to the Agricultural Reserve. Many organizations including the Montgomery Countryside Alliance fight very hard to keep intrusions out of the reserve. I have testified many times at local legislative hearings regarding proposed developments that are not in alignment with the goals of the agricultural reserve. I encourage citizens to get out and take a firm stand against any type of development that poses serious environmental damage.
Land preservation needs to be a priority when areas are targeted for development. The tactics that developers and government agencies use to promote development – have fallen way out of alignment with what is sustainable for the future. Wildlife and birds have taken a brutal beating in areas where there is clear-cutting and massive pavement replacing what was once their sacred land. Imagine waking up one day and finding your home is gone or a highway is paved through your habitat.
To protect the future of our farms, forests, and green space please join a land trust or other land preservation organization. Exercise your civic rights to testify at legislative hearings; volunteer for an environmental organization and put your vision to work. A world without trees, clean air and water, green space, and abundant wildlife habitat is not a happy or sustainable outcome.
I hope to soon move back to Montgomery County and hike in the Agricultural Reserve! I miss it there. Long live our green heritage!