Grants Permanently Protect 6,500 Acres
Governor Larry Hogan recently announced that the Board of Public Works, including Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, unanimously adopted a Maryland Department of Natural Resources recommendation approving 17 Rural Legacy Program grants totaling over $23 million. Funding from these grants will permanently protect over 6,500 acres of working farms, forests, and open space in 18 counties.
The projects include protecting productive farmland, natural habitat, scenic view sheds, shorelines, wetlands, and woodlands as well as cultural, historical, and natural resources.
“Our administration is committed to land conservation, preservation, and recreation, and I am very pleased to announce these new Rural Legacy Program grants, which will preserve and protect our most pristine agricultural, environmental, and historical areas,” said Governor Hogan. “When I became governor, I promised to restore funding for our world-renowned land programs, like Program Open Space, and we have done just that. We are following through on our commitment, and I thank the Comptroller and the Treasurer for helping us make progress toward our Chesapeake Bay Agreement goals.”
“This innovative private-public partnership helps us preserve and protect resource-rich properties across the state, from agricultural tracts and working farms and forests in Garrett County to ecologically-significant watersheds and environmentally-sensitive wetlands in Worcester County,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The program allows us to work with those who know the land best – local governments and nonprofits – to secure valuable areas in a shared effort to support local economies and industries while enhancing and improving water quality and wildlife habitat.”
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. The program acts through local government or private land trust sponsors to purchase conservation easements from willing property owners in 31 locally-designated rural areas located in every county. To date, the program has permanently protected 91,398 acres.
A law championed and signed in 2016 by Governor Larry Hogan increased funding for critical land conservation, preservation and recreation programs, including the Rural Legacy Program. As a result, between Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017, the program saw a boost of 75 percent with an additional 30 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2017 to 2018. This increase in funding directly resulted in an increased capacity to protect Maryland’s working farms and forests.
The Rural Legacy Board includes the Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary, Department of Planning Secretary, and Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton, who serves as chair.