- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

The Maryland Board of Public Works including Comptroller William Donald Schaefer voted yesterday to approve outgoing Gov. Parris N. Glendening's 11th-hour bid to spend $15.4 million now and another $6.3 million later to preserve more than 25,000 acres of Eastern Shore woods and wetlands.
Mr. Schaefer, who had been critical of the land deal, dropped his opposition and joined the two other members of the board, Mr. Glendening and state Treasurer Nancy Kopp, in voting for the purchase. But Mr. Schaefer, as has become his habit at the Board of Public Works meetings, took a few broadsides at the outgoing governor before handing him the environmental victory.
Mr. Schaefer had denounced the plan as a political stunt to enhance Mr. Glendening's pro-environmental credentials while disregarding the impact on the $1.8 billion budget shortfall inherited by Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
"Doesn't bother you, though. You'll run around the country saying what a great environmentalist you are," Mr. Schaefer said, as the outgoing governor stared forward without responding. "You'll never mention how you are the most fiscally irresponsible governor I've ever known."
But the comptroller said he changed his tune when he heard testimony on the merits of the deal, including that of U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest. The Eastern Shore Republican explained how important woodlands are for filtering polluted water before it enters the Chesapeake Bay. He then linked the health of the land to the viability of the region's farmers, loggers and fishermen.
"In reality, it is one of the best land deals ever for the state," Mr. Schaefer said. "The only problem was the governor didn't know how to present it."
After the meeting, Mr. Schaefer said he thought Mr. Ehrlich would support the deal, though he had not discussed the issue with him.
The temporary reduction of the state's share to $15.4 million made it more palatable for the governor-elect, said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell.
"The governor-elect is very pleased that the board could come to an agreement on an important land-preservation project that also respects the state's fiscal situation," he said.
The deal is a first of a kind for environmental protection, with government and conservationists teaming up with the timber industry to preserve 25,203 acres.
Environmentalists and the timber industry said the deal would safeguard natural habitat, help preserve the Chesapeake Bay and protect the $28 million timber economy in depressed Eastern Shore counties.
The property contains more than 19,800 acres of prime forest land, more than 7,600 acres of wetlands and about 31 miles of streams and rivers in Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester, Dorchester, Charles and St. Mary's counties.
The state's $15.4 million is only a portion of the entire preservation proposal: The timber company Forestland Group will add $16 million and the environmental group the Conservation Fund is loaning the state another $6.3 million which the state has promised to pay back when fiscal conditions improve.
Patrick Noonan, chairman of the Conservation Fund that spent 18 months setting up the deal, said he was "absolutely shocked by the 3-0 vote. Someday, people will praise their foresight." He said the arrangement demonstrated that environmentalists can embrace capitalism and free- market principles while successfully preserving natural resources.
"It is a huge win for the Chesapeake Bay," said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "But what makes me so happy is that it is a huge win for the economy of the Eastern Shore as well."
Protecting the timber land from residential or commercial development also protects more than 100 jobs on the Eastern Shore directly related to timber harvesting, as well as scores of jobs in dependent industries, such as trucking, milling and wholesaling and retailing of timber products.
Bill Miles, executive director of the Association of Forest Industries, which represents Maryland's timber interests, said the deal put his industry in the proper environmental light. "We plant more than we harvest," he said.
"Sustainable, long-term forest management must be the prime concern of public policy," Mr. Miles said. "As opposed to preservationists who want to just lock it up and not manage it. There is a preservationist mentality that it should be left alone to fend for itself."
The state will put up $12 million in bond funds and $3.4 million from the general fund through Program Open Space to acquire easements preventing development of the Glatfelter property.
After the easements are in place, the timber company Forestland Group will buy 21,766 acres from Glatfelter. The remainder will be bought by the Conservation Fund for $6.3 million and held until funds become available for the state to buy it.

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