ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Ball announced that Howard County earned the 2023 Maryland Sustainable Growth Award in the Preservation/Conservation category for its landmark Purchased Conservation Easement Pilot Program, which was launched last year in partnership with the Howard County Conservancy. The award, which recognizes individuals, organizations, and government agencies for their accomplishments in protecting or improving farms, forests, and natural resources in the state, celebrates the Conservation Easement Program’s commitment to sustainable growth and conservation in Maryland. Maryland Secretary of Planning Rebecca Flora presented the award certificate to Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and program partners at the offices of the Howard County Conservancy. Pictures from the event can be found here.
Howard County leads, particularly when it comes to protecting our environment and becoming more energy independent. This award is an affirmation of the hard work of the Howard County Conservancy and our Department of Planning and Zoning. Leveraging the strengths of the County and the Conservancy, this innovative program helps us protect our environment for generations to come.
In 2022, Howard County dedicated $2 million to the innovative Conservation Easement Pilot Program, the first of its kind in Maryland to specifically target nonprofit property owners with environmentally sensitive land and provide them with financial incentives to protect environmentally sensitive areas on their property.
County cooperation and initiatives are imperative to ensuring we reach the State’s sustainability goals, and the Purchased Conservation Easement Pilot Program launched by Howard County is a great example of the innovative ideas that will make sure those goals become reality. Preservation and conservation are cornerstones of meaningful sustainable work, and we are happy to highlight the work Howard County is engaged in with this award as their deep care for these cornerstones is clear.
The initiative advances resource conservation, environmental protection, and stewardship in Howard County by maximizing community partnerships between Howard County government, the Howard County Conservancy, and local nonprofit organizations to protect environmentally sensitive areas in the County. Easement purchases are funded by Howard County Government and secured by the Conservancy, which then monitors easement properties for compliance with environmental protection goals.
“This has been a great opportunity for the Department of Planning and Zoning to work with the nonprofit community in advancing sustainability in the County,” said Mary Kendall, Deputy Director for the Department. “This innovative program advances the environmental goals of the County’s recently adopted general plan, HoCo By Design.”
In June 2023, the program successfully secured its first preservation easement for property owned by the nonprofit Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church. The $1.8 million purchase, underwritten by a grant from Howard County to the Conservancy, permanently preserved the 62-acre property, whose environmental resources include 45 acres of forest, of which 13 acres are forest interior species habitat and 32 are wooded acres that make up part of Howard County’s Green Infrastructure Network (GIN).
“I want to thank County Executive Ball for supporting new and innovative ways to advance environmental conservation in our County,” said Meg Boyd, Executive Director of the Howard County Conservancy. “Before this program, preservation opportunities for these types of property were limited. Now viable options exist to preserve critically important environmental resources across our county.”
In Fiscal Year 2023 and Fiscal Year 2024, the County has invested a total of $2.5 million into the pilot. County Executive Ball recently announced that the program will soon add eight acres of environmentally sensitive land owned by the nonprofit North St. John’s Swim and Tennis Club in Ellicott City.
Earning this prestigious award builds upon Howard County’s statewide and national environmental progress. This includes being the first County in the nation to achieve a LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Buildings Council, planting more than 68,000 trees since 2018, becoming the first County in Maryland to sign the Charge@Work pledge to increase workplace electronic vehicle charging, and signing the largest power purchase agreement in Maryland.