(May 3, 2019) Two decades after being launched, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program reached a milestone last month with conservation efforts now topping more than 100,000 acres statewide protected from future development.
The Rural Legacy Program, which is administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, provides money to buy permanent conservation easements for property within a designated Rural Legacy Area.
The program, which acquired its first conservation easement in fiscal year 1998, is designed to protect natural resources and interdependent industries, such as agriculture and forestry.
In April, the Board of Public Works approved the latest round of conservation easements under the Rural Legacy Program, totaling 795 acres, which pushed the land tally into six-figure territory.
Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said in a statement the program has now exceeded 100,000 acres of rural land preserved since its inception.
“We have successfully worked with local partners, farmers and other landowners to conserve and maintain the rural character of our state for future generations,” she said
DNR Easement Administrator Katrina Tucker said the recent round of conservation easements included a nearly 80-acre tract located about five miles south of Snow Hill.
“One of them was the Hauck property, which is within the Coastal Bays Rural Legacy Area in Worcester County,” she said.
Tucker said with the addition of the 78.43-acre Hauck property, the Rural Legacy Program has now preserved more than 10,000 acres in Worcester County.
“Acquisition of this conservation easement will protect productive cropland that contributes to the local agricultural economy, as well as 2,700 linear feet of woodlands adjacent to Spring Hill Branch,” she said. “These conserved acres remain in private ownership and remain working farms and forests with environmental protections.”
Worcester County contains a pair of Rural Legacy Areas, Coastal Bays, which encompasses 45,945 acres, and Dividing Creek that is comprised of 55,527 acres split between Worcester and Somerset Counties, Tucker said.
“The permanent conservation easements that the Rural Legacy Program acquires from willing sellers extinguish development rights and require best management practices,” she said.
Tucker said along with comparable land preservation programs, such as the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and the Maryland Environmental Trust, along with other statewide conservation efforts, the Rural Legacy Program has been impactful in Worcester County.
“Half of the acreage in the Dividing Creek RLA … has already been preserved and almost 38 percent of the Coastal Bays RLA is protected,” she said.