State and Federal Programs
Maryland Environmental Trust (MET)
MET was created in 1967 to protect Maryland’s natural environment and is the State’s primary recipient of donated conservation easements. MET is affiliated with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and governed by a citizen board of trustees. It is one of the oldest and largest land trusts in the country and has protected over 129,000 acres of scenic open space primarily with donated conservation easements. It seeks to protect farms and forest lands, wildlife habitat, waterfront acreage, natural areas, historic sites, and valuable scenic features. MET and its cooperating local land trusts prefer to accept donations on lands greater than 25 acres, though there is no fixed minimum parcel size. Donations are accepted throughout the year. A property owner may benefit from a donated conservation easement by the federal income tax deduction, the Maryland property tax credit, the Maryland income tax credit, and through estate tax savings. MET promotes the protection of natural, historic and scenic resources through its Land Conservation Program, Stewardship Program and Land Trust Assistance Program and provides grants to non-profit organizations for environmental education projects through its Keep Maryland Beautiful Program.
Program Open Space (POS)
POS was created in 1969 by Maryland General Assembly though the institution of a transfer tax of ½ of a percent on every real estate transaction in the state. POS funds the acquisition and development of state and local parks and the preservation of unique natural areas that harbor rare and endangered species. POS has two components, a local grant component often referred to as local side POS and a component that funds acquisition and recreation facility development by the State. The local side component provides financial and technical assistance to local governments for the planning, acquisition, and/or development of recreation land or open space areas, including the purchase of easements on land to protect unique historic properties (battlefields or historic structures and landscapes) or scenic vistas. There is no minimum acreage or other requirement for funding from POS.
Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF)
MALPF was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1977 and is part of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. MALPF purchases agricultural preservation easements that restrict development on prime farmland and woodland in perpetuity. The mission of MALPF is: to preserve productive farmland and woodland for the continued production of food and fiber for all of Maryland’s citizens; to curb the expansion of random urban development; to protect wildlife habitat; and to enhance the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Landowners of eligible farmland and/or woodland should contact MALPF to find out how to sell an agricultural preservation easement on their property.
Rural Legacy Program (RL)
RL was created in 1997 and is administered by the DNR. It seeks to set aside large blocks of rural lands for the protection of natural and scenic resources and the fostering of natural resource economies such as agriculture and forestry. Landowners may apply at any time to local sponsors (county government or a local land trust), and the sponsors apply annually for funding. The minimum property size for Rural Legacy funding is 25 acres, though this may vary by locality. To qualify for participation, the property must be located within a State-approved Rural Legacy Area. Contact the State Rural Legacy Program office to learn more.
Forest Legacy Program
Forest Legacy Program is a federally funded program established under the 1990 Farm Bill that promotes the long-term integrity of forest lands and protects environmentally and commercially important forest lands that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. The Program purchases conservation easements from willing sellers on forested properties located within approved Forest Legacy Areas. Forest Legacy applications are handled by the local office of the DNR Forest Service. Forest Legacy easement acquisitions are contingent upon federal funding availability and national project ranking.
Maryland Historical Trust (Trust)
The Trust was created in 1961 and is an agency within the Maryland Department of Planning. The Trust serves as the State Historic Preservation Office and reviews State undertakings on historic properties, assistance to non-State historical and cultural museums, cultural conservation, underwater archaeology, and heritage tourism activities. The Trust accepts easements to protect Maryland’s valued historic structures and preserve local heritage. Property listed on, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places or located in a locally certified historic district, may be eligible for an easement donation to the Trust. State and Federal tax benefits (income tax deductions) are available for qualified donations of perpetual, historical easements. While this agency is primarily concerned with historic structures, the land associated with the setting of such structures can be, and often is, preserved through a conservation easement to maintain the integrity of the historic landscape.
Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)
EQIP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and offers financial and technical assistance to participating landowners to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural and forest land. EQIP provides incentives in the form of cost share payments to implement conservation practices including forestry management practices on non-industrial private forestland. Program focus is geared towards livestock and agricultural production interests. The majority of practices will likely be funded at 50%. Limited resource producers and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for cost-shares up to 90%. Agricultural producers, individuals, or entities engaged in livestock, agricultural production, or forestry management may participate in EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pasture, and private non-industrial forestland. Contact your local DNR Forest Service or NRCS/Soil Conservation District office for more information.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
WRP is administered by the NRCS) and seeks to secure conservation easements and provide cost-share assistance to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands and eligible buffers.