Maryland Law to Protect Critical Areas

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley recently signed into law a bill that ensures more protection of the most environmentally sensitive and significant lands within the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays watersheds.

The Critical Areas law will restore the Critical Area Commission's regulatory authority to operate with the same authority as every other state agency; significantly strengthen enforcement; provide stronger protection of water quality and wildlife habitats; establish new procedures for processing variances; and require updating of the Critical Area boundary -- which has not been adjusted since 1972. The 1984 critical areas law designated all land within 1,000 feet of the edge of tidal waters and wetlands as "critical area." Sixty-four local jurisdictions including 16 counties and 48 municipalities comprise land within the critical area.

Another new law will secure $25 million for the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund to help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and make Transit Oriented Development a priority for the state, which should reduce sprawl and over-development.

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