The Board of Public Works on October 12 unanimously approved more than $27.1 million in Rural Legacy Program grants for conservation easement acquisitions, reflecting the highest annual amount appropriated since 2002. Funding from these grants will permanently protect 7,100 acres of working farms, forests, open space, shorelines, and wetlands — plus cultural and historical resources — throughout the state. Additionally, the Rural Legacy Board approved an expansion of more than 36,000 acres in six Rural Legacy Areas.

An expansion of Calvert Creeks Rural Legacy Area was among the grants approved this year. Credit: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The Board of Public Works includes Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Treasurer Dereck Davis. The Rural Legacy Board recommended the projects, which consist of the Secretaries of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and the Maryland Department of Planning.

“This increased funding is the result of the Hogan Administration fully funding land conservation and preservation programs and reflects high transfer tax revenues from the recent housing boom in Maryland,” Maryland DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “The Rural Legacy Program is one of Maryland’s most important tools for preserving and protecting our lands by working with local partners, landowners, and nonprofit organizations to maintain Maryland’s rural character and our natural-resource based industries.”

The Rural Legacy Program is designed to preserve large tracts of productive and valuable agricultural and forested lands with exceptional features. The program acts through local government or private land trust sponsors to purchase conservation easements from willing property owners in 35 locally-designated rural areas in every county. Now celebrating 23 years since the first acquisition, the program has permanently protected more than 117,200 acres.

Details of the projects are on the Board of Public Works website. DNR will submit individual contracts to purchase conservation easements to the Board of Public Works as specific transactions arise.

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