Over past decade, our region has witnessed an unprecedented amount of development.
While the population of the National Capital Region has increased by 10 percent, the amount of impermeable surfaces due to development (roads, parking lots, buildings etc) have increased by as much as 40 percent. That’s a growth to population ratio of four to one. The result has been that our treasured green spaces are disappearing. The impact of this loss is that the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River continue on the decline.
From the phenomenon of male bass with female origins to large fish kills, nature is telling us we need to act now to save our local waterways. Development without land preservation is a major problem as pollutants in rain water run-off are the leading cause of environmental degradation in the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. As our region’s green spaces are replaced with greater development, the amount of dirty run-off is increased because rain water is not able to naturally seep into the ground.
To help combat this trend, last week I introduced legislation, the “National Capital Region Land Conservation Act,” which will create a new $50 million matching grant program that will fund land preservation efforts in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The bill, supported by over 22 national, state and local conservation and government organizations, as well as the entire regional congressional delegation, represents a long-overdue federal commitment to address land preservation.
This legislation would update the famous-in-land-preservation-circles “Capper-Cramton Act.” Enacted in 1930, Capper-Cramton created the National Capital Planning Commission that authorized purchase of all the green space along both sides of the Baltimore Washington Parkway, the George Washington Parkway and Rock Creek Parkway. In addition, the act was responsible for implementing the remaining portions of the famous ‘McMillan Plan,” which laid a blueprint for the National Mall as well as other green spaces surrounding the City’s monuments. Ultimately, the measure has resulted in a greener, more livable Nation’s Capital.
With the rapid expansion of developed land, our scenic landscapes and green spaces are endangered, expediting the decline of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. In order to protect and restore this critical habitat and one of our region’s defining landscapes, we must both conserve and preserve more land. With strong support from the regional delegation, I’m hopeful we can get some traction on the legislation in the coming year.