CCFA substantial step in supporting environmental conservation

By Emma Reilly
Opinion Editor

The recent passage of Maryland’s Comprehensive Conservation Finance Act by Gov. Larry Hogan indicates that the state’s legislators are continuing to prioritize environmental concerns.

On April 21, Gov. Hogan signed over 100 bipartisan bills into law — including the CCFA, initially developed by conservation nonprofit organizations and private capital groups in 2019.

According to Maryland.gov, the measure “makes Maryland the first state to enact legislation that leverages private capital to advance climate, conservation, and water quality goals.”

Hogan specifically mentioned the CCFA in his opening statement before signing an extensive list of legislative measures.

The act is one of the governor’s “top priorities” and reflects his administration’s ongoing “commitment to environmental stewardship,” Gov. Hogan said.

By signing the CCFA into law, Gov. Hogan demonstrated how serious he and his administration are about addressing environmental concerns. Gov. Hogan’s historic approval of the CCFA signifies his willingness to address an issue noted by a number of prominent environmental organizations.

According to Sam Levine with the Conservation Finance Network, the Land Trust Alliance, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership’s collaborative Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative hosted a roundtable on private capital investment in environmental restoration and conservation, which inspired the measure.

At the roundtable, these groups compared public and private conservation finance commitments. Private funds total around $30 billion less than public contributions worldwide, according to the group’s background document.

The passage of the CCFA will address this disparity directly by eliminating red tape for conservation groups.

“The [act] is exciting because of technical changes proposed across the conservation regulatory regime rather than any one new grand initiative,” Levine said. “And it…[reduces] the bureaucratic burden on private groups seeking to partner with government agencies for conservation projects.

In addition to reducing process complexities, the CCFA explicitly defines vital systems.

The act defines green infrastructure as “the use of land-based natural areas to improve the health and resilience of human communities” and blue infrastructure as “similar services for water-based natural areas,” according to the Environmental Council of the States.

These are “the first such legal definition[s] by a state,” Levine said. By defining these environmental infrastructures, the CCFA clarifies and legitimizes them.

The financial impact of the CCFA’s procedural developments is notable.

“Maryland’s bipartisan conservation finance law should double the amount of funding in our state for green and blue infrastructure by allowing private capital to support public environmental projects with ‘pay for performance’ procurement and other market-based strategies,” ECOS President and Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment Ben Grumbles said.

In addition to financial benefits, the CCFA “makes…a focus on social equity a bigger part of a diversity of Maryland environmental programs,” according to the Chesapeake Conservancy.

The CCFA addresses concerns expressed by environmental groups in Maryland, and will make it easier for such groups to implement and further develop conservation programs in the state. By passing the measure, Gov. Hogan took a significant step toward realizing his administration’s environmentally consciousness goals. 

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Featured Photo Caption: In a continuation of his dedication to environmental concerns in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan signed House Bill 653/Senate Bill 348 into law on April 21. The measure will increase private conservation commitments in the state.

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