Frequently Asked Questions

What is GreenPrint?

Greenprint Maryland is a first in the nation web-enabled map showing the relative ecological importance of every parcel of land in the State.

Combining color-coded maps, information layers, and ariel photography with public openness and transparency, Greenprint Maryland applies the best environmental science and geographic information systems to the urgent work of preserving and protecting environmentally critical lands.

A valuable new tool not only for making land conservation decisions today, but for building a broader and better informed public consensus for sustainable growth and land preservation decisions into the future.

What does strategically target mean?

Targeting means identifying a goal and directing action to achieve it. Using the example of a dart board, your target may be a bulls-eye and you take careful aim to achieve that mark. In the world of land conservation, targets are mapped land areas that provide certain benefits to the public. Strategic targeting means that only the most important lands are selected as the “bulls-eyes”. Program Open Space Stateside has selected ecologically valuable lands (Targeted Ecological Areas) as its strategic targets.

What are “Targeted Ecological Areas”?

Targeted Ecological Areas are lands and watersheds of high ecological value that have been identified as conservation priorities by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These areas represent the most ecologically valuable areas in the State: they are the “best of the best”. These lands include large blocks of forests and wetlands, rare species habitats, aquatic biodiversity hotspots and areas important for protecting water quality. DNR mapped where these high priority lands are using a variety of methods developed by agency ecologists. These ecologically important areas have been designated as conservation targets for Program Open Space Stateside.

Why are portions of some Targeted Ecological Areas developed?

By examining the satellite imagery that can be viewed underneath the Targeted Ecological Areas map layer, you will see that some areas are developed. You may find houses, residential communities, or commercial and industrial areas. There are several reasons for this. These areas are intentionally broad because of the need to protect entire ecosystems and watersheds. People, communities and businesses are a part of the environment. Society and the environment can coexist to mutually benefit each other. However, in other instances, recent development and the loss of natural habitats may not be reflected in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ecological assessments because of the time lag in updating several databases. Before any land is purchased for ecological reasons, DNR’s field staff surveys the land and its surrounding to determine whether it is still ecologically valuable and worth the investment of our limited conservation funding.

What does ecologically valuable mean?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( defines Ecology as “a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments.” The key is organisms and environment. What is implied is place: the organisms and environment are linked to a location or place on the ground. In the real estate market, the value of property is often described as “location, location, location.” From an ecological perspective the same is true. Only in this case the land (made up of portions of one or many properties) performs functions that are valuable from a landscape or ecological perspective. In many cases, the citizens of Maryland are the direct beneficiaries of these functions. Forests provide wildlife habitat, soak up nutrients, filter stormwater, shade streams, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and other benefits such as recreation. Wetlands filter stormwater, soak up nutrients, recharge aquifers, provide habitat and offer places to explore. In some locations, the plant and animal species exist only due to the specific location and conditions afforded by the ecological resources available to them. Taken in total, these lands mapped by DNR represent the best-of-the-best lands Maryland has from an environmental or ecological perspective.

What is a Geographic Information System (GIS)?

A geographic information system integrates hardware, software, personnel and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared. Source: Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) -

What is Smart Growth?

Smart Growth directs the State to target programs and funding to support established communities and locally designated growth areas, and to protect rural areas. The Priority Funding Areas Act provides a geographic focus for the State's investment in growth-related infrastructure. The remaining four components complement this geographic focus by targeting specific State resources to preserve land outside of Priority Funding Areas, to encourage growth inside Priority Funding Areas, and to ensure that existing communities continue to provide a high quality of life for their residents. Smart Growth has four straightforward goals:

  • Support existing communities by targeting resources to support development in areas where infrastructure exists;

  • Save our most valuable natural resources before they are forever lost;
  • Save taxpayers from the high cost of building infrastructure to serve development that has spread far from our traditional population centers; and
  • Provide Marylanders with a high quality of life, whether they choose to live in a rural community, suburb, small town, or city.

    Source: Maryland Department of Planning (MDP)

Why is the State interested in upgrading wastewater treatment plants?

The Chesapeake Bay has experienced a decline in water quality due to over enrichment of nutrients (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen). Effluent from wastewater treatment plants is one of the top three major contributors of nutrients entering the Bay (urban and agricultural runoffs are the other two). Therefore, the Bay Restoration Fund was passed by Maryland's legislature in 2004 to create a dedicated fund, financed by wastewater treatment plant users, to upgrade Maryland's wastewater treatment plants with enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) technology so they are capable of achieving wastewater effluent quality of 3 mg/l total nitrogen and 0.3 mg/l total phosphorus. Please see the following webpages for more information.

Do I need special software to use this web site?

Specialized software is not required to use this map but a web browser with Flash installed is needed (We recommend having the latest version). The interactive map has been tested using two different web browsers – Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox Version or better. If you are using older version of these browsers or are using a different browser the map may not function as designed. Also, some PDF documents may be downloaded. Adobe Acrobat will be required for you to view these documents, if you don't have the Adobe Reader go to their download page.

Can I download data for use in my GIS system?

No you cannot download data directly into your GIS system.

Why does the shape of the symbol for some layers change as I zoom in close?

Some of the symbols are represented by one shape when looking at the entire state or a large area, then change to the shape of the parcel when zoomed in close. This was done to ensure that small parcels are visible when viewing the entire state. Their relatively small size renders them not visible at a statewide view.

Why can’t I access individual layers in the base map, like roads?

All the data that you see in the base map (Map button on top right), roads, streams, place names, county, city, town and parcel boundaries, water, military bases, etc., are all combined in such way that they not individually selectable. In effect, they have been placed into a single layer with no direct control. The only control the user has is to select between the Map or Satellite buttons (top right).

Can I change colors in the map?

No, the user cannot change any of the colors in the map. This is done to make the map as fast and efficient as possible.


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What's New

Combining color-coded maps, information layers, and ariel photography with public openness and transparency, this valuable new tool applies the best environmental science and geographic information systems to the urgent work of preserving and protecting environmentally critical lands today. Greenprint is not only informing our land conservation decisions today, but also building a broader and better informed public consensus for sustainable growth and land preservation decisions into the future.

Gunpowder Falls Gunpowder State Park