‘Green Acres’ is the place to be (Editorial)

(Dec. 1, 2015) There is a passion throughout the Mid-Atlantic for the preservation of farmland and other open space.
These are precious commodities.
Witness, if you will, New Jersey, the most urbanized state in the nation, separated only by a river from the vast Manhattan metropolitan area, and laying claim of its own of an equally massive and volatile urban, commercial and industrial complex.
The New Jersey metro area spills out, with varying energies, to the north and south, creating huge suburban patches.
Within them and around them are New Jersey’s farmland and woodland and open spaces which the citizens of the so-named Garden State are determined to preserve.
At the polls on Nov. 4, and by a praise-worthy margin, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment that would dedicate money from a business tax to support and fund open space and farmland preservation.
In so doing, New Jersey voters have left no doubt as to how precious is their open land. In 13 previous elections, bond issues to support the state’s Green Acres program have passed by large margins.
This one, in the 2014 election, made that support permanent.
New Jersey’s dedication to reserve its breathing space, so to speak, is duplicated along the East Coast and throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
Late last month, for example, the secretaries of agriculture in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia joined a huge crowd in Easton, Md., to celebrate agriculture and farming and to explore ways to protect it in an ever-more-populous world.
The symposium was hosted by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and was themed “The Future of Farming on the Eastern Shore.”
The presence of Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl “Buddy Hance,” Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee and Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Haymore was evidence of their commitment to farmland in their states.
Ocean-bound motorists from the Baltimore metro area and the nation’s capital, know the feeling crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, heading east, and the marshes and farms of the Eastern Shore of Maryland spread out before them.
Similar sights await New Jersey day-trippers and vacationers who flee the cities to Cape May City and grab the ferry to southern Delaware.
Those feelings would be denied those travelers today if not for the efforts of those who love the environment of open space and open air. The environment speaks of freedom.
In the New Jersey Green Acres program, 650,000 acres have been set aside and posted with “No Trespassing,” signs, in effect, and under the new authority. The program will get at least $75 million a year.
And to the west, so far in this adventure, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has preserved more than 56,000 acres on 297 properties from Cecil County to Dorchester County — all of it preserved in perpetuity.
And that’s in addition to the work of MALPF, the Maryland Ag Land Preservation Foundation, which as of November of this year, had purchased easements on 2,178 properties, permanently preserving 295,451 acres of farmland, for $657 million.
And all of that could be gone tomorrow unless citizens — like the voters in New Jersey — keep up the fight.