Enhanced Funding Helps Preserve and Protect 4,615 Acres
The Board of Public Works (BPW) unanimously adopted a Maryland Department of Natural Resources recommendation today to approve 15 Rural Legacy Program grants, totaling $17,663,385, to permanently preserve approximately 4,615 acres of working farms, forests and open space across the state, from Garrett to Wicomico County.
The projects include protecting endangered species, natural habitats, productive farmland, scenic view sheds, shorelines, wetlands and woodlands.
“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.
A new law championed and signed last year by Governor Larry Hogan increased state funding for critical land conservation, preservation and recreation programs by $60 million over the next two years. Rural Legacy Program funding saw a boost of 70 percent; increasing from $10 million in Fiscal Year 2016 to $17 million in Fiscal Year 2017.
“The Hogan administration strongly supports land conservation, preservation and recreation programs, be it the Maryland Park Service, Program Open Space or the Rural Legacy Program,” Belton said. “Due to this enhanced funding, we can now preserve more of our precious lands while also supporting Maryland’s natural resources-based economy and industries.”
The Rural Legacy Board is chaired by Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton and staffed by Department of Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder and Department of Planning Secretary Wendi Peters.