Maryland will provide more than than $34.6 million in Rural Legacy Program grants to county governments and land trusts to purchase conservation easements in designated Rural Legacy Areas throughout the state.
Funding will protect 7,400 acres statewide with the largest appropriation in the program’s history. The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the funding on August 23.
“From Mountain Maryland to the coastal plains of the Eastern Shore, the Moore-Miller Administration is committed to maintaining the character of our state’s rural landscapes,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz, who serves as the chair of the Rural Legacy Board. “This record amount of funding will enable us to protect and preserve Maryland’s farms and forests with local nonprofit land trust partners, willing landowners, and county governments. The program allows us to work in partnership with these local sponsors to support rural economies while at the same time enhancing water quality and wildlife habitat.”
The Fiscal Year 2024 funding is the most annual funding appropriated since the program was established in 1997. The grants will permanently protect approximately 7,400 acres of working farms and forests, shorelines, wetlands, sensitive environmental areas, as well as natural and cultural resources throughout the state.
This year’s 21 grant awards will conserve about 2,770 acres on the Eastern Shore, 1,280 acres in Southern Maryland, 1,580 acres in Central Maryland, and an estimated 1,770 acres in Western Maryland.
Additionally, the Board of Public Works approved an expansion of 246 acres for the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area in St. Mary’s County directly across from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River that will promote compatible development in the vicinity of this military installation.
The Board of Public Works includes Governor Wes Moore, Comptroller Brooke Lierman, and Treasurer Dereck Davis. The grant awards 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 Rural Legacy Program is designed to preserve large tracts of productive and valuable agricultural and forested lands that contain exceptional features. The program enables county governments or private land trust sponsors to purchase conservation easements from willing property owners in 35 locally-designated Rural Legacy Areas. The conservation easements prevent the development of the property while requiring property owners to preserve and protect the natural features of the land.
There is a Rural Legacy Area designated in all of Maryland’s 23 counties. The program has permanently protected more than 120,885 acres in its 24-year history.
Details of the grant awards are on the Board of Public Works website. The Department of Natural Resources will submit individual contracts to purchase conservation easements to the Board of Public Works as the specific transactions are submitted by the sponsors.