In an important step for land conservation in Southern Maryland, the Board of Charles County Commissioners recently unanimously approved plans to establish the Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Rural Legacy Area in the western region of the county. If designated, the Nanjemoy-Mattawoman would be the second Rural Legacy Area in Charles County.

The Smarter Growth Alliance of Charles County, one of the county-wide coalitions led by Smart Growth Maryland, has long been an advocate for the designation of the Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Rural Legacy Area, which would encompass just over 40,000 acres of property extending from the Potomac River almost to Welcome, is called for in the county’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan and the 2017 Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan. Smart Growth Maryland and other members of the Alliance worked with the County’s Planning Department to develop the proposed boundaries that includes nearly the entire Nanjemoy peninsula, extending to Nanjemoy Creek in the east and Mattawoman Creek to the north.

Created in 1997, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program has preserved 86,103 acres of valuable forests, farmland, and natural areas. The designation gives local governments and land trusts access to additional funding sources to help purchase conservation easements from landowners. As a member of the Partners for Open Space steering committee, Preservation Maryland advocates for full funding for Rural Legacy and other land conservation programs every year during the legislative session in Annapolis.

Every Maryland County includes at least one Rural Legacy Area. Charles County’s first Rural Legacy Area, the Zekiah Watershed Rural Legacy Area, was established in 1998 and is noted by the Smithsonian Institution to be one of the most important ecological areas on the East Coast because of its unique and robust natural hardwood swamp.  Pending final approval by the Board of Public Works this fall, the Zekiah Rural Legacy Area will be expanding to nearly double the current size, thanks to the advocacy of Smart Growth Maryland and our partners.

The recent approval from the Board of Charles County Commissioners of the Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Rural Legacy Area is one step in a much longer process. A public information meeting is scheduled for August, with public hearings are planned for the fall. Smart Growth Maryland will continue to work with the Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County throughout the process to ensure the creation of this new Rural Legacy Area.

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