Monday, October 27, 2008

Latest Eastern Shore Poll Shows Residents More Concerned than Ever about Growth!

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), a private, nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of farmland and habitat on the Eastern Shore today announced the results of a poll indicating growth, development and sprawl continue to be a top concern for Eastern Shore residents.

The land use poll, conducted by Susquehanna Polling & Research, Inc. late this summer, surveyed 1,500 Eastern Shore residents regarding growth and development, local funding priorities, transportation, conservation needs and factors affecting their quality of life.

The poll indicates that residents feel the single most important problem facing the Eastern Shore is growth, development and sprawl. This is followed by a 2:1 margin by a tie between jobs/economy and the environment/community. This number of residents most concerned about growth and development issues is highest in Queen Anne’s and Talbot.

"This poll tells us that growth issues continue to be a top concern of Eastern Shore residents and that the public is looking to local elected officials for solutions ," said Amy Owsley, ESLC’s Director of Land Use Planning.

Earlier this year ESLC engaged Susquehanna Polling and Research to survey registered voters in six counties of the Eastern Shore: Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot. A total of 1,200 registered voters (plus an additional over sampling in Caroline, Dorchester and Kent ) were interviewed by telephone, from August 25 – September 2. The margin of error for the regional poll is +/- 2.8 percent.

ESLC conducted a similar poll in 2004 and the results from the most recent poll iterate many of the same findings.

The top headlines from the 2008 survey are:

o Pace of Growth: Due to the rapid rate of development and its impact on the loss of farmland and habitat, people are feeling anxious about growth on the Eastern Shore. Growth, development and sprawl were cited as the single most important issue facing respondents’ local area.

o Quality of Life: More residents than ever believe things are going in the wrong direction in the Eastern Shore today, some 43 percent compared to 35 percent in 2004 - which means voters are not happy with the status quo; and although most voters believe their quality of life is excellent or good and has not worsened during the last several years, an overwhelming majority (62 percent) are very concerned about the loss and farmland and habitat on the Eastern Shore.

o Elected Officials: Eastern Shore residents reaffirm the role that both local and county governments play in open space preservation including the protection of wildlife and habitat areas – including the continued use of public funding for open space preservation. By a 71/4 margin, residents believe local officials should increase their efforts to preserve open space. This is a slight increase from 65 percent in 2004.

o Funding Priorities: Residents also support their county’s use of public funds for open space preservation, recreation and the protection of natural wildlife habitats in towns, villages and rural areas at a margin of 5:1 - up from 3:1 in the 2004 poll. Among those that support county funding, more than a third (38 percent) would pay up to fifty dollars.

o Towns and Villages: By a 65/27 margin (or better than 2:1) residents support policies designed to encourage new development in and around existing towns and villages and discourage development in the countryside.

"Both our 2004 and this recent poll tell us quite clearly that the Eastern Shore public wants more land protection, better managed growth, and for our important farming tradition to be protected," said Rob Etgen, ESLC’s Executive Director. "It is obvious that we must do more to protect the Eastern Shore way of life and rural heritage that we all love."

For more information about the 2008 survey and to obtain a copy of the survey report, please visit

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kudos to our local media for their commendation of our leader!

The following is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Star Democrat. It was written to thank the newspaper for their October 17 editorial commending Rob for the award and for his long career working to protect our Eastern Shore!

October 23, 2008
Dear Editor

I am writing on behalf of the staff and Board of Directors at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy to thank you so much for your recent editorial commending Rob Etgen for recent Conservationist of the Year award from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. All of us at ESLC were so pleased to read this wonderful tribute to Rob for his tireless hard work to preserve and protect the Eastern Shore. This salute – both by your newspaper and CBF, reiterates what we enjoy so much about working with such a pioneer in land protection and conservation. Rob’s leadership and vision has lifted our communities and has inspired us all to work harder in our daily lives to preserve the quality of life and precious places we all enjoy on the Eastern Shore. That inspiration is significant now more than ever as we face unprecedented growth pressures coupled with the financial difficulties that your editorial cites will impact the ability to protect the character of our rural countryside and our towns and villages that make up the true heartbeat of the Eastern Shore.

Rob’s leadership throughout the past 20 years has helped make the Eastern Shore a better place to be sure. Each of the Board members and staffers who have had the honor of working with him have learned a tremendous amount from him over the years. We thank you for this truly deserved recognition of our leader and for your continued coverage of land preservation and land use planning issues facing our beloved Eastern Shore. Keep up your great work!

Alex Rasin,
Chestertown, Maryland

Alex Rasin is the President of the Board of Directors for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. He writes on behalf of the staff and Board of Directors for ESLC.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rob Etgen wins Conservationist of the Year Award!

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has awarded it annual Maryland Conservationist of the Year Award to Rob Etgen, the founding executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC).

“Rob’s passion for conservation has ensured that our children and grandchildren will be able to appreciate the natural beauty of the Eastern Shore, and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Kim Coble, CBF’s Maryland Executive Director.

In a ceremony Wednesday in Queenstown, CBF lauded Etgen for his pioneering efforts. ESLC is one of the most successful conservancy groups in the country, having preserved more than 45,000 acres of natural areas and prime farmland – just in the six Maryland counties his organization serves. That group is only one of a multitude that Etgen, a Galena resident, helped start.

"I am honored, surprised and so humbled to be recognized with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation conservation award. CBF has always impressed me with the incredible focus of its work, and the high integrity of its leadership. Thank you CBF for this award, and for all you do for the Bay, " Etgen said. "I also am grateful to everyone else on the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy team - our board, staff and supporters - in the past 20 years we have accomplished much together and the Eastern Shore is truly a better place for our efforts.”

Etgen is a native Marylander. Previous to working at ESLC, Etgen worked in the Attorney General’s office in the Department of Natural Resources. Etgen’s last post was with Maryland Environmental Trust, where he helped create eighteen private land conservation organizations. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy was one of those. Currently, there are over fifty land trusts in operation throughout the state.

Etgen was one of the architects of Maryland’s successful Rural Legacy program, which helped foster innovative state-local partnerships that have led to the protection of 60,000 acres in the state from sprawl development. He also created Eastern Shore 2010, a regional land use agreement that has catalyzed citizens, decision-makers, and planning professionals to help make Maryland’s Eastern Shore a better place to live.

Coble noted Etgen’s vision for land conservancy, seeing the effort as more than land acquisition, but helping people see the value of their natural environment. As evidence of that vision, Coble noted a recent ESLC initiative – a donation of a half-acre community garden to the Town of Easton.

“This small public space does not boast the most pristine of wildlife habitats, nor does it filter vast quantities of polluted runoff flowing to the Bay,” Coble said. “But it is a place where people can see how protecting the environment, including all its critters and important natural systems, is fundamentally about people too. People can connect with nature even through a patchwork of garden soil and the promise of a plentiful harvest that sustain
s their family. “