It’s been 20 years since Maryland acquired its first property to become a conservation easement as part of Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program.
Last week that program was approved for over $18.8 million in grant money for more easements in 18 counties thanks to the Board of Public Works.
Easements are voluntary, legal agreements that permanently limit land use for conservation.
Funding from these grants protect more than 4,500 acres of working farms, forests, open space, shorelines and wetlands —plus cultural and historical resources —throughout the state. The recommendations also include six Rural Legacy Area expansions, which provide the opportunity to protect more than 172,039 acres.
The Mattapany Rural Legacy Area, a Rural Legacy Area since 2006, in St. Mary’s County was awarded over $2 million to match Navy Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration funds to acquire land protecting the area’s rich farmland, forests, wetlands, historic sites and wildlife habitat. Also in St. Mary’s County, the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area will add almost 6,000 acres to connect the Potomac and Patuxent River watershed and further expand a partnership with that Navy program.
Nearly one million will go to counties on the Eastern Shore that are part of the Agricultural Security Corridor, to be split among Eastern Shore Heartland, Harvest Crescent and Tuckahoe legacy areas.
The projects were recommended by the Rural Legacy Board, which consists of the Secretaries of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and the Maryland Department of Planning. The Board of Public Works includes Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
“This program allows us to work with those who know the land best– local governments and nonprofits and the landowners themselves—to support our local natural resources-based economies, while enhancing our environment and protecting rural landscapes,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said.
Established in 1997, the Rural Legacy Program acts through local government or private land trust sponsors to purchase conservation easements from willing property owners in 32 locally-designated rural areas located in every county. To date the program has permanently protected more than 103,000 acres.