Think Southern Maryland? Think big rivers, deep deciduous forests, abundant ecological services, and a rich cultural heritage.
Southern Maryland is bounded on the west by the second largest river in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and on the east by the Chesapeake Bay. The Patuxent is Maryland’s largest river that begins in the state, and it runs through the center of Southern Maryland, touching all five counties. Maryland’s first capital, St. Mary’s City, as well as its current capital, Annapolis, is located in Southern Maryland, and it should come as no surprise that much of the early history of the state and the country happened in Southern Maryland.
Early colonists settled in Southern Maryland for its temperate climate, it’s good farmland soils, and its abundant access to waterways. Our nation’s first attempt at accepting religious freedom, the Maryland Toleration Act, was exercised first in Southern Maryland.
Of course, the region’s land was inhabited before the colonists arrived. The Piscataway Confederacy had already established villages and practiced a very sustainable form of agriculture that we could learn from today.
Southern Maryland counties already protect 270,506 acres of working and historic landscapes and critical ecological resources, and have identified thousands more in need of protection. Our team of land trusts at SMCA are here to help landowners protect their lands while maintaining equity in them.
Everyone else should care too. Southern Maryland’s waterways are ideal for boaters and fishermen. Its deciduous forests are the largest in the state, and they support a wide variety of wildlife, a timber harvest industry, and dozens of miles of hiking trails dotted throughout the region.
But it is the “green infrastructure” that we should all care about. Healthy rural landscapes provide critical ecological services. The forests, meadows, bogs, and marshes attenuate stormwater, soak up excess nutrients, store carbon, and provide habitat for the smallest to the largest animals in the region.
According to Maryland Greenprint maps, this green infrastructure provides $1.74 billion per year in ecosystem services in the five-county Southern Maryland region. Our working landscapes add $3.2 billion to the regional economy. This green infrastructure is growing dangerously thin, as hunters, fishermen, farmers, and land stewards can attest. And it is very expensive or impossible to replace.
The areas we are trying to protect are areas that counties and the state have expressed a desire to preserve . Let’s get it done now, before it’s too late.