Farm Scene - Maryland's Rural Legacy program

The Rural Legacy Program Process


The Rural Legacy Program provides the focus and funding necessary to protect large, contiguous tracts of land rich in natural and cultural resources from sprawl development. It also enhances natural resources, farms and forests through cooperative efforts among state and local governments and land trusts. Protection is provided through the acquisition of easements and fee estates from willing landowners and the supporting activities of Rural Legacy Sponsors and local governments. The Program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Rural Legacy Program was enacted by the 1997 Maryland General Assembly and signed into law May 22nd of that year.

Scenic view of white farm fence

Why was the Program created?

The Rural Legacy Program was created to discourage sprawl development and protect areas for future generations to enjoy. The Program provides farmers and landowners an alternative to developing (or subdividing) their land or selling their property to developers. Under the Program they can sell or donate their development rights and still retain ownership to continue growing crops or raising livestock.

How is the Program funded?

On the state level, the Rural Legacy Program is funded through a combination of Maryland Program Open Space dollars and general obligation bonds from the state’s capital budget.

Local jurisdictions also contribute monies for a variety of land preservation efforts within these areas.

The Process

The Program encourages local governments and private land trusts to identify Rural Legacy Areas and to competitively apply for funds to complement existing land conservation efforts or create new ones. Local Sponsors must apply annually to the Rural Legacy Board for participation in the Program and to receive funding.

The Rural Legacy Advisory Committee reviews all applications and makes recommendations to the Rural Legacy Board. The Rural Legacy Board, in turn, reviews the applications each spring and recommends to the Governor and Board of Public Works which Rural Legacy Areas will be designated and funded.  The Board of Public Works designates the Rural Legacy Areas and approves the grants for Rural Legacy funding.

What criteria are used to evaluate applications?

Definitions of Key Terms

What are some other land acquisition/protection methods?

How to Begin the Application Process