Land Conservation Programs
There are many land conservation programs operating throughout the State that work to protect natural resources, farmland and recreational open space. Each program has a unique conservation objective. GreenPrint offers a way to improve how these programs work together. Four of Maryland’s most active State operated land conservation programs are described below. The only program that directly targets ”Targeted Ecological Areas” is Program Open Space - Stateside. The order conservation programs are listed reflects the funds expended and acres preserved under each program, based on the last annual State-wide update. To achieve the protection of valuable rural landscapes that are composed of farms, forests, wetlands and meadows, it is critical that all the various conservation tools be stitched together to form an “implementation quilt”.
Established under the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 1969, Program Open Space (POS) symbolizes Maryland's long term commitment to conserving our natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities for our citizens. POS Stateside funds are used for the acquisition of parklands, forests, wildlife habitat, natural, scenic and cultural resources for public use. To improve the strategic use of these limited funds, DNR developed a new POS Targeting Land Conservation System which is based first on protecting Targeted Ecological Areas, the most ecologically valuable lands in the State. Total Acres Preserved: 306,873 (10/1/10).
The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), in existence since 1977, is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the country. Its primary purpose is to preserve sufficient agricultural land to maintain a viable local base of food and fiber production for the present and future citizens of Maryland. This program is administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and by county agricultural preservation programs. There are agricultural lands in some Targeted Ecological Areas. Broad landscape protection of these ecologically valuable lands can be achieved by stitching together the most appropriate programs for the land resources. Total Acres Preserved: 265,691 (1/22/08)
The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) is a statewide land trust, operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and governed by a citizen Board of Trustees. It was created by the General Assembly in 1967. The goal of this program is the preservation of open land, such as farmland, forest land, and significant natural resources. The primary tool for doing this is through donated conservation easements. Private landowners, who want to preserve their land and have interest in donating an easement, can ensure the land will never be used in a way contrary to their intent, will benefit financially through reduced property taxes and will be able to pass the land on to their children without paying large estate taxes. Because this program operates on donations, it is not targeted, but can play a significant role in protecting land from development. Total Acres Preserved: 91,504 (7/24/08)
Lands that produce food and provide scenic open space, wildlife habitat and clean water are increasingly at risk from urban sprawl and rural subdivisions. The intent of the Rural Legacy Program (RLP) is to protect large, contiguous tracts of Maryland’s most precious cultural and natural resources lands, with a special emphasis on productive forestry and agricultural landscapes. Conservation targets are designated as “Rural Legacy Lands”. In certain Rural Legacy Lands, this program can complement the targeting objectives of POS Stateside. Total Acres Preserved: 67,096 (10/1/10)
Other Conservation Programs and Tools
A variety of other programs that protect land from development operate at smaller or more localized scales and are funded by many different sources. This is a quick overview of these additional conservation tools. As with the major State funded land conservation programs, these tools should also be applied in a targeted manner to achieve an “implementation quilt” of conserved landscapes and environmentally sensitive places.
- Transfer or Purchase of Development Rights (TDR/PDR)
These programs are operated by local governments in Maryland and allow landowners in designated lands to sell their development rights to various buyers. These programs have been used effectively to achieve rural land conservation.
- Local Parks and County Lands
Program Open Space (POS) also has funds that it distributes to local governments (Program Open Space Local-side) for conserving recreational open space. These funds, in addition to other county and municipal conservation efforts, have preservation funds,
- Federal (non-military) Lands
Various Federal agencies own and manage land in Maryland. Examples include the Patuxent Research Refuge, owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Assateague Island National Seashore owned by US National Park Service.
- Maryland GreenPrint Program
This State funded program is no longer active and operated from 2001 until 2006. The funds were targeted for the protection of Green Infrastructure.
- Maryland Historical Trust (MHT)
MHT preserves historically significant properties and is operated through the Maryland Department of Planning’s Division of Historical and Cultural Programs.
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
CREP, which receives funding from the US Department of Agriculture, protects water quality by removing marginal agricultural land from production and replacing it with best management practices including riparian buffers, stabilization of highly erodible soils and restoration of wetlands. The lands are then conserved through a permanant conservation easement.
- Land Conservancy Programs
Numerous national and local land trusts operate within Maryland and conserve ecologically and agriculturally significant lands.
- Forest Legacy Program (FLP)
FLP targets ecologically and economically important forest lands for permanent conservation easements. Funding is provided through the U.S. Forest Service.
- Forest Conservation Act
Maryland law requires that all development projects must conserve a certain proportion of forest land in a permanent easement. In some cases, additional forest must be planted and added to the permanent easement.
- Resource Conservation Zoning Tools
Land use authority is under the control of local government. Through zoning controls, some counties have maintained their rural landscapes by establishing rural conservation zoning thresholds that limit development to 1 housing unit per 20 acres or even less.
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 State Park