County mulls Rural Legacy Area

Bill Crouch

Bill Crouch

CAMBRIDGE – Members of the Dorchester County Council decided unanimously to schedule a public hearing to consider the creation of a Tubman Rural Legacy Area. The concept was proposed during the board’s regular meeting June 5 by The Conservation Fund’s Maryland Director Bill Crouch.

As conceived, the area could comprise 28,000 acres, and would “extinguish,” to use Mr. Crouch’s term, development in central Dorchester County. Much of the area outlined is already part of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Still, many local property owners would have to agree to inclusion. At a recent hearing held by The Conservation Fund, Mr. Crouch said 15 owners attended, with 11 being in favor of the project – about 70 altogether would be affected.

But taking part would be up to them. “The Rural Legacy Program is voluntary,” Mr. Crouch said.

“They’re still able to farm it, take timber, hunt, trap, etc.,” Commissioner Tom Bradshaw (District 5) said.

The Rural Legacy Program, overseen by the Department of Natural Resources, “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 DNR’s website says. “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.”

Judd Vickers, an associate director with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, spoke to the council about the area under consideration. “It really brackets nicely the historic landscape that is unchanged from Harriet Tubman’s time.”

The public hearing being scheduled would be held before the council were to decide whether to issue a letter of support for the project. “It will touch a lot of people,” Council President Ricky Travers (District 3) said.

Representatives of The Conservation Fund will attend the hearing to answer questions from the public.

The Fund was founded in 1985, to address “the question of how to blend a capitalist society and the conservation challenges in America that calls out for innovative and enduring solutions,” the group’s website says. “The Fund provides the capital to finance conservation, and ensures that the economic fabrics of communities are thoroughly woven into the process.”

The Conservation Fund is one of the nation’s top-rated environmental charities. The group has helped to protect 7.8 million acres since 1985.
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