Maryland’s Forest & Rural Legacy Program
Two programs, one federal and one state, have been used to identify areas for special protection from development. The Forest Legacy Program was established pursuant to the federal farm bill of 1990, and provides that the United States Department of Agriculture — US Forest Service can purchase perpetual conservation easements in areas designated by the Maryland Forest Service as Forest Legacy areas. Only private forest land in a Forest Legacy Area is eligible for the program. At the end of an announced sign-up period, applications are evaluated and ranked, with the highest ranked applications entering the acquisition process. Seven areas in Maryland were designated, following an extensive public review of information compiled about significant forest resources that were expected to be under serious development pressure and that met other criteria for such a designation.
The Rural Legacy Program was established by an act of the Maryland General Assembly in 1997. The Program encourages local governments and private land trusts to identify Rural Legacy Areas and to competitively apply for funds to complement existing land preservation efforts or to develop new ones. Easements or fee estate purchases are sought from willing landowners in order to protect areas vulnerable to sprawl development that can weaken an area’s natural resources, thereby jeopardizing the economic value of farming, forestry, recreation and tourism.
Areas identified under these programs may be expected to be the focus of land protection efforts as funds allow. The intent is to maintain the working landscape in the identified areas.