Land Preservation and Easement Acquisition Programs to be Evaluated This Interim

During final capital budget deliberations, House and Senate conferees adopted budget narrative directing state agencies, representatives from county parks and recreation departments, and other interested stakeholders to evaluate State land preservation and easement acquisition programs and all capital and operating programs funded with the State transfer tax.

The evaluation includes the following programs – Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program, Program Open Space – State and Local, Rural Legacy Program, and Maryland Environmental Trust. According to the budget narrative, topics should include:

…the pros and cons of combining some or all of the land preservation and easement acquisition programs, and the possible expansion of State and local revenue generating opportunities from multi-use State working lands.

The narrative further requests the following evaluation of local Program Open Space:

…the appropriate percentage of funding to be devoted to acquisition of land before development projects may be funded, the trade-offs associated with increasing/decreasing this percentage, the current status of county fulfillment of the land acquisition requirement, and the status of the requirement to evaluate the Program Open Space – Local allocation formula annually by a committee.

The evaluation report is due to the budget committees of the General Assembly by December 1, 2015. It is the intent of  the budget committees that the land preservation and easement acquisition programs by fully funded with the transfer tax at the level recommended in the report.