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October 26, 2005

by Jack Lynch

We’re going a little bit nuts, as I am taking my young children out to gather fallen nuts for a program called Growing Native from the Potomac Conservancy that takes the nuts of native hardwood species and plants them at State grow-out stations, then distributes the young trees across Maryland forests and along riparian buffers.

What I like is both the hands on activity, and the direct lesson in water conservation and quality, which allows me to teach them in concrete terms that we affect the water and environment, and that my ethic is to better our stewardship of the land.

It is one of those simple tasks that is meaningful to the community and to generations to come after us who can benefit from our increased protection of the streams and rivers.

A couple of weeks back, as we prepared to hold a local session with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, our event host, a former dairy farmer with a large farm, decided to add to his tree plantings on his now protected acres.  A large group of folks gathered to do the tree plantings on a Saturday.  These volunteers are the backbone of the local movement to bring a restored environment to Frederick.

There are many groups that are educating and drawing attention to the issues of land and water locally, and all are doing good work like tree plantings or stream restorations, but there is a distinct lack locally of one important element that can further the efforts by gaining greater government support.  What is needed is a broad coalition of forces speaking with a single voice and acting in unison to gain governments attention.

We need that as we watch Frederick County grow.  We need to mitigate the forces of land sprawl and destruction of habitat.  We need to preserve more farmland, and to do it in a way that makes real sense.

While Frederick County has a goal of protecting 100,000 acres of farmland, over in neighboring Carroll County they have the same goal, and they have one quarter of the land.  Worse, or better, they have reached half of their goal while we’ve only reached a third of our goal. 

And even more importantly, they’ve done a much better job of protecting contiguous parcels of farms, and concentrated their protections along streams and the Monocacy River.  Frederick County’s land preservation, except for the private efforts in the Middletown valley and around the Burkittsville area, have seemed a shotgun approach with scattered parcels all over the map.

Recently it appears that the County Commissioners have backed off of the Planning Commissions New Market Plan recommendations to plan sprawl development over the last agricultural massing in Green Valley. 

This is a positive step, but only a reaffirmation of the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and State standards to fund only Priority areas and not allow sprawl on well and septic.  It remains to be seen however, how the plan will develop in relation to farms above Interstate 70.

Hopefully we’ll all still have a few places left in New Market to gather nuts for planting trees in Maryland in the future.