Governor Glendening, Governor Hughes – it’s an honor to stand with you here. What we’re doing today is a continuation of the goodness that they reflected in office, and of the people of our State. And about the desire that we have and the willingness we have and the responsibility that we have to make the right decisions now in order to make tomorrow better.
We just heard from Secretary Hall, and as Governor Glendening and Governor Hughes can attest, this plan has been a long time coming. Governor Hughes, during his time in office, challenged each of us to understand that we each have a role to play if we’re going to save the Bay. And Governor Glendening, in his term in office, taught each of us that in order to save the Bay, that each of us has to make the right decisions to save the woodlands, the wetlands and the farmlands that allow the Bay to continue to exist.
They have been outstanding leaders of this state, in order to move our State forward, and to make our State, as has been our legacy, a leader among states in showing the rest of the country a better, more balanced and better connected way forward.
Over the last 40 years, our land use has grown at three times the rate as our population, and that is not sustainable. It took three centuries to develop the first 650,000 acres of land in Maryland, and it took only 37 years to develop the next million acres of land in Maryland. So we have to figure out better and smarter ways to grow.
Since 1950, we’ve lost 873,000 acres of farmland. That’s a significant part of our Maryland economy. That’s more than twice the area of Baltimore County. And if we don’t change the ways in which we grow, we are projected to lose another 220,000 acres by 2035. But the exciting thing about this day, and really about every day, is that while we cannot change the past, we can change the future, and we have the ability to change the future. And we never had better tools at our disposal in order to understand this as a democratic and self-governed people.
This kind of growth has real effects on our quality of life. Right now, the average commute time for Marylanders is longer than it is in New York and New Jersey. That’s time that’s taken away from work, that’s time that’s taken away from kids. And miles traveled on our roads is projected, if we don’t change the manner in which we grow, to increase by 50% by 2035.
At the end of the day, Plan Maryland is really about building a stronger and more sustainable future for our kids and our grandkids, so that they have the opportunity to enjoy the same quality of life that we have. And I urge every citizen to get involved, and to go online, and to check out the tools, to come to understand the GreenPrint in your own county, come to understand the AgPrint in your own county, come to understand where we have grown and where we can grow in ways that actually strengthen us as a people, rather than hurt us.
We have had great people from all over the state who’ve been participating in this, as Rich outlined. There are challenges, some of them so large that we can only hope to tackle them if we work together, and if we help one another. And this is one of those challenges.
Many, many years ago, when the Legislature in its wisdom, said that there should be a state development plan, they did so because they understood that we need to find more, smarter, cleaner and greener ways to grow. Since that time, many things have happened in a positive way. But the growth has continued in many instances unchecked from those days of the Preferred Funding Areas. We have now seen, since they were first enacted, 75% of the sprawl growth has been happening outside of them. Let me repeat that. Since the days of the PFA, 75% of the new growth has happened outside of the PFAs. So, we need to redouble our efforts.
Building a sustainable, long-term future for our State is an important, important goal. And none of us can shrink from it. It really is the great work of our times. What Plan Maryland is all about is the first long-range, sustainable growth plan, and we need the local governments to help us make this work, and to help us fine-tune it, and to help make it a reality.
While growth of preservation areas await local input and collaboration, we do have online, and have had for some time, the Maryland GreenPrint that shows us where the minimal amount of green habitat – woodlands, wetlands – areas are that we need to preserve and defend. And when we rolled that out, it was received with acclaim, not only from MML, but also from MACO, and all other stakeholders. Who could disagree that we should be preserving the minimum amount of space necessary so the Mattawoman can continue to spawn and be that source of renewal and balance that it has done.
With this in mind, we also put forward the Maryland AgPrint. Governor Hughes in his time in office talked about the imperative we had to protect the agricultural corridors so that we could keep the farming economy and farming jobs and family farms in Maryland, which are a great defense against the sort of degradation of the health of our environment.
With this in mind, let me tell you a little bit about what Plan Maryland is, and what it is not.
It is a roadmap for future growth, which will help us accommodate the million additional residents who are coming to Maryland while at the same time protecting our farmlands, woodlands, and wetlands in a smarter, more sustainable, and more balanced and better way.
It is a plan to target our statewide investments. A gentleman from the Washington Post said, so, in essence what this means is that while it doesn’t restrict counties from making stupid decisions about growth, what you’re saying is the state’s not going to be part of those stupid decisions, and we’re not going to be subsidizing those stupid decisions, those unsustainable decisions. And I suppose that is true. This plan will target investments that we make and we estimate that we can actually save money by targeting those investments in the smarter growth areas.
It is not a way for the State to take away local planning and zoning prerogatives. Our purpose is to work with local planning and local zoning and we all need to participate in this in order to make it work.
This is something we do because of the shared reality that we have. It is not a substitute for local decisions. It is not a substitute for citizens making intelligent decisions about the people they elect and evaluating those decisions against the map. What it does enable us to do, in ways we never had the ability to do before, is use the power of GIS to map every single parcel. We can bring it into every single home through the power of the internet, and together, we can make better decisions about the future that we want.
I now want to introduce one of the strongest champions for Bay restoration and saving our Bay that our State has ever had, and that is Governor Harry Hughes.