A Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release (2016-10-19) announced that the Board of Public Works unanimously approved 15 Rural Legacy Program grants across the state. The grants total $17,663,385 and would preserve 4,615 acres of farmland, forests and open space. From the press release:
“These grants provide a cost-effective way to permanently conserve culturally, ecologically and historically important parcels of land in our state,” said Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. “Protecting and preserving these important and irreplaceable tracts of land helps us retain our agricultural and rural character, and aids our efforts to meet our Chesapeake Bay restoration commitments and goals.”
Established in 1997, the Rural Legacy Program is designed to preserve large tracts of productive and valuable agricultural and forested lands that contain exceptional features by acting through local government and private land trust sponsors, which in turn work with willing property owners in 31 locally-designated rural areas situated in every county.
To date, the public-private partnership program has permanently protected 87,811 acres through conservation easements.
The press release also discussed the passage of HB 462 of 2016, which stabilized and increased funding for various land preservation programs, including Rural Legacy and Program Open Space, by $60 million over the next two years. (MACo supported the final version of HB 462).