MD League of Conservation Voters Responds to “War on Rural Maryland”

On November 18, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) sent an email update responding to the recent land use and environmental concerns raised by rural jurisdictions, sometimes dubbed a “War on Rural Maryland.”

The update offers MDLCV’s view on the pressures facing rural areas and argues that immediate change is needed.  MDLCV proposes to accomplish this change by supporting PlanMaryland, limitation on the use of septic systems, and the local Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  The full update is included below:

We are hearing about this War on Rural Maryland but are puzzled by these claims. No one can argue that continuing to encourage poorly planned development, highly polluting septic systems and burying valuable farm lands under houses with tax payers picking up the high costs is a good plan.

Support for a future for Maryland with a strong rural economy, profitable farms, a healthy Chesapeake Bay and efficient use of scarce tax dollars makes sense.

But to do this things have to change and change fast.

Maryland’s rural areas have been under siege over the last 50 years. So much rich farmland is now covered with houses and strip malls. Roads that used move tractors and combines are choked with commuter traffic. We have more development than we can afford to support, pollution in our streams and the bay.  Something has to change and it begins with supporting a strong rural economy based on growing food not houses.

The loss of farm land has cost us good local jobs and local food. Over the past 30 years we have lost over 650,000 acres of land to development – the same as we developed over the previous 300 years.

Under current local government development plans will result in the loss of over 400,000 more acres of farm and forest and require the building of another 15,000 miles of roads. The siege on our rural lands will result in 1.4 million pounds of nitrogen pollution from just septic systems into our already struggling water ways.

Local governments have declared time and time again that planning and zoning is their right but it is also their responsibility to do it in a way that does not waste tax dollars, hurt our agriculture economy and decimate our environment.

What can we do?

As tax payers we need every penny to count, we need safe clean water and we need communities that we are not forced to have to drive long distances.

We have to do things better so we have good local foods, protect critical rural jobs, clean up our streams and the bay and protect tax dollars from waste. 

We have three opportunities to do this:

  1. Implement Plan Maryland—get the state working smarter and sending a clear message to local governments that if you want state help, you need to achieve state goals.
  1. Support Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs)— locally based plans already exist to meet Clean Water Goals.
  1. Reform of Septic System Policy— to stop making it cheaper and easier to pollute our air and water.                                                                                   

Stay tuned and be on the lookout for action alerts as we enter the 2012 General Assembly legislative session.

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