How the Department of Natural Resources Supports Military and Community Compatible Use

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works to preserve, protect, restore, and enhance the environment for current and future generations. In support of civilian-military compatible use in Maryland, DNR provides grants and programs that local governments and community organizations can consider for areas surrounding military installations as they work to further their land preservation goals. DNR plays a key supporting role in implementing many of the recommendations of the 2019 Statewide Joint Land Use Response Implementation Strategy to facilitate community and military compatibility.

In addition, DNR is one of seven state agencies that take part in the review of Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) applications for permitting approval of utility-scale renewable energy projects (along with the Department of Planning, Maryland Energy Administration, Department of the Environment, Maryland Department of Transportation, and the Department of Commerce). DNR is also a part of the Federal Offshore Siting Process for Renewable Energy projects. Compatible permitting and siting of renewable energy projects are key to maintaining and protecting the military mission and operational areas in the state.

Compatibility Factors relevant to the Department of Natural Resources: Biological Resources, Marine Environments, Scarce Natural Resources, Threatened and Endangered Species

Relevant Programs and Plans

Forest Legacy Program

 

The Forest Legacy Program is a federal program administered by the U.S Forest Service that works in partnership with states in order to protect environmentally sensitive forests from clearing or conversion to development. According to the Forest Legacy Program, the program is designed to "identify and protect environmentally important forest lands through the use of perpetual conservation easements purchased at market value between willing sellers and willing buyers." Up to 75% of the funding for the easements can be provided by the federal government. The other 25% will come from state, local, or a non-governmental organization. Easements can also be donated by the landowner. It is important to note that this program is only available in areas that have been identified as Forest Legacy Areas.

If the land in question is located in an area the military is looking to protect in order to preserve military operations, this program presents a unique opportunity for landowners who meet the Forest Legacy Program criteria to receive compensation for an easement by working with the U.S. Forest Service, DoD, and DNR while furthering a community's land preservation goals.


Program Open Space Stateside

 

Program Open Space Stateside continues the state's commitment to conserving natural resources and providing outdoor recreational opportunities. Using fee-simple and easement acquisitions, the program preserves natural areas for public recreation and watershed and wildlife protection. A targeting system using ecological priorities is used to maximize available state funding and support program decisions. Additional funding is used to acquire other land based on recreational, cultural, historical, educational, water access and resource-based economic characteristics. This program could support civilian-military compatible use by preserving lands located outside military installations and/or in military operational areas in the state of critical importance to the DoD where incompatible development would threaten the viability of those areas.

An example of Program Open Space utilization can be found in Harford County. Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) worked with Harford County government to facilitate the purchase of Belle Vue Farm, a 347-acre property in Havre de Grace that has historically been a source of noise complaints from activities at APG. APG used the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program to reach out to preservation partners to identify mutual objectives of land preservation and to prevent the development of this rich historic, natural, and cultural resource. The ultimate acquisition and transaction costs were co-funded by Program Open Space, Harford County government, and the Harford Land Trust. The property is permanently preserved through a Program Open Space conservation easement with the state and has restrictions imposed on it by APG through the ACUB program. Learn more about the acquisition of Belle Vue Farm.


Rural Legacy Program

 

According to DNR, the Rural Legacy Program "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." Public-private partnerships are created between land trusts and local governments where participating partners are encouraged to work together to determine how to best protect their vital working landscapes. A partnership could, for example, request that ecologically significant properties (such as a working farm) be designated as a Rural Legacy Area.

The Rural Legacy Program is administered by the Rural Legacy Board, which includes the Secretaries of DNR, Planning, and the Department of Agriculture. The Board seeks assistance and advice from an Advisory Committee and annually designates Rural Legacy Areas and recommends areas for funding. A Rural Legacy Area designation gives land trusts and local governments an opportunity to competitively apply for state funds to complement existing land conservation efforts or create new ones, including funds to facilitate the purchase of conservation easements from willing landowners. The Rural Legacy Program is another tool that communities can use to support military-civilian compatible land use by protecting landscapes immediately surrounding military installations.

Southern Maryland's Mattapany Rural Legacy Area exemplifies how local governments, states, and federal entities can work together to achieve and further land preservation goals in conjunction with military neighbors. Learn more about this valuable partnership and how the DoD is involved in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area Case Study.

Heritage Conservation Fund

 

The Heritage Conservation Fund is established under Natural Resources Code Ann. § 5-1501 (2020) to acquire conservation easements in natural areas that are habitats for rare species or are unique natural communities. The fund also provides financial support to administer other programs geared toward achieving land preservation goals. Appropriations for the fund may be provided by special bonds or general state funds and conservation easements. Using this fund must also be approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works. The use of Heritage Conservation Funds presents another land preservation opportunity for the state and defense communities to protect land immediately surrounding military installations if fund criteria are met.


Maryland Environmental Trust

 

The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) works with landowners, land trusts, and communities to protect land and natural resources through tools, direct assistance, and information. MET's Land Trust Assistance Program encourages collaborative partnerships to achieve conserving open space, farmland, and other natural and historic areas, and works to increase organizational capacity of local land trusts to support the diversity of conservation. The program offers technical assistance, workshop, and training opportunities to provide local land trusts the chance to grow their organization and be competitive throughout the grant process.

MET's work with local land trusts and governmental partners can be applied to land preservation activities surrounding military installations. For instance, a local land trust could use the program's technical assistance to acquire grant funding that could support a request for state and/or federal funds to preserve land of significance to the DoD.


Chesapeake and Coastal Grants Gateway

 

DNR created the Chesapeake and Coastal Grants Gateway (Grants Gateway) as a one-stop resource to assist government, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions with the grant application process. The Grants Gateway is available for projects that foster resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies and contains technical and financial support for these project types. Grants are made possible from numerous state and federal sources, including the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, NOAA, EPA, and the Resiliency Through Restoration Initiative, among other organizations. The Grants Gateway could be used by defense communities as they continue to think about projects and actions to increase resilience to climate impacts and other environmental challenges.


Watershed Assistance Grant Program

 

The Watershed Assistance Grant Program represents a partnership between DNR, MDE, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Financial support is provided through the program for the design and permitting of watershed restoration projects, including planning and development activities. The goal of the grant program is to fund projects that improve water quality in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay and Youghiogheny watersheds, and the Maryland Coastal Bays. By providing funds early in such projects, the program can assist local governments and nonprofit organizations to prepare watershed restoration projects for project implementation. Defense communities located in the project eligible areas could utilize the Watershed Assistance Grant Program in support of resiliency planning projects designed to achieve their environmental resiliency goals and protect the resiliency of the installation from coastal threats.


Critical Area Program

 

The Maryland General Assembly passed the Critical Area Act in 1984. It is a comprehensive program to protect the Bay's natural resources, Maryland's Atlantic coastal bays, and tidal shorelines. The program's regulations require that all development within 1,000 feet of tidal wetlands and tidal waters be defined as Critical Areas and thus meet specific provisions, including setbacks from the water, limits on lot coverage, and forest and tree clearing.

State law requires local jurisdictions to develop and adopt their own Critical Area Programs, based on the State Critical Area Act criteria. Additionally, the Critical Area Act requires that local jurisdictions identify and provide for the establishment, preservation, and maintenance of a protective buffer around aquatic resources within program-defined Critical Areas. The buffer must be at least 100 feet wide and naturally vegetated to provide a filter and critical shoreline habitat for native plants and wildlife.

Where installations and Critical Areas abut, local jurisdictions are encouraged to consider land conservation strategies to achieve Critical Area Act goals and further joint- resiliency planning strategies to ensure continuity of military operations.

For more information, check out Bay Smart, the Citizen's Guide to Maryland's Critical Area Program, or refer to your jurisdiction's Critical Area Program.


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