ANNAPOLIS – Students from Broadneck Senior High School spenta week last summer camping at Wye Island, where their days werepacked with activities, from planting marsh grasses to buildingbird boxes.
While earning a half credit toward graduation, they gainedan appreciation for the bay that teacher Pat Neidhardt said”makes them better citizens for the rest of their lives.”
The trip and hundreds of similar projects across the statewere funded by Marylanders who bought special license plates orgave a little extra at tax time.
Revenues from commemorative bay plates and the state incometax check-off have funded over 1,200 grants for bay projects,totaling $5 million since 1989.
Over 900 organizations have put these dollars to work inprojects ranging from planting trees to studying water quality toprinting a recycling directory.
Funds are distributed by the Chesapeake Bay Trust in theform of grants to schools, science centers and organizationsincluding the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service.
The trust expects to award over 450 grants this year. Theaverage grant is under $5,000, Assistant Director Rick Leadersaid, but some large organizations, like the Chesapeake BayFoundation, get as much as $30,000.
Neidhardt called the trust a “phenomenal resource forteachers,” and said the “state gets back more than they invest”in the form of labor and matching funds.
Of the 3.5 million vehicles registered in Maryland, 560,000,or 16 percent, bear commemorative Chesapeake Bay plates graced bythe great blue heron. The plates have generated about $5.6million since their introduction in 1990. Money not yet allocatedis held for the future by the trust.
The trust’s share of revenue increased from $10 to $12 perset of plates last year, Leader said.
One hundred thousand Bay plates were sold in the first threemonths of the program, Leader said. While sales leveled off afterthe first two years, they have continued at a steady rate. Theprogram is set to continue through June 1996.
Along with money from the bay plates, the trust disburseshalf of the funds from the state’s income tax check-off. Theother half goes to the Department of Natural Resources’ nongameand endangered species programs.
The check-off allows individuals to write in the amount theywant to contribute, which can either be deducted from theirrefund or added to their tax payment. Leader said up to 18,000people added to their payments to give in 1993. The averagecontribution last year was $15.05. Since its introduction in1989, the check-off has raised about $1 million each year.
Glenn Therres, supervisor of the DNR’s wildlife diversityprogram, said check-off funds account for 75 percent to 80percent of the nongame species program’s annual funding, andabout 30 percent of the endangered species programs’ budget.Check-off donations are divided evenly between the two programs.
The nongame species program works to protect the 400wildlife species in Maryland that are not hunted or trapped, butare not considered endangered, Therres said. For example, aproject is underway to increase the population of the barn owl byputting up nest boxes across the state. The department’s endangered species program works to recoverand protect the 420 endangered and threatened species inMaryland. -30-