The U.S. House of Representatives, in what was described as a victory for environmentalists, voted last night to transfer 7,600 acres of wooded surplus land at Maryland's Fort Meade to the Interior Department as an addition to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
The action, taken with no debate, was part of a vote on the fiscal 1991 military construction budget bill. A companion measure is expected to be taken up this week by the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to meet with little opposition.
Advocates of the land transfer say that the Fort Meade property, when combined with the 4,000-acre wildlife refuge and the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, will form one of the largest stretches of green space between Richmond and Boston.
The Army has been under orders to sell 9,000 acres of the 13,670-acre Fort Meade for development as part of a nationwide consolidation of military installations. Maryland's congressional delegation and state and local officials, citing the intense growth of the Baltimore-Washington area, indicated they wanted the entire parcel maintained as a wildlife preserve.
Maryland's representatives and senators, in a compromise with Republican members of key congressional committees, agreed to let the Army sell 1,000 vacant acres and the 400-acre Tipton Airfield, said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
"Ultimately, I think everyone concluded that this was a unique piece of property and that it presented a unique opportunity to serve the environment without really costing us anything," Hoyer said.