The Rural Legacy Program
According to the Department of Natural Resources, "the Rural Legacy Program will provide the focus and funding necessary to protect large contiguous tracts of farms, forest, and natural areas through cooperative efforts among state and local governments and land trusts." Land trusts, according to Grant Dehart of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, are expected to play a particularly important role.
Protection will be provided through the voluntary acquisition of interests in real property, including easements and fee estates. Additional natural resource protection will be provided on farms as part of purchased easements, where necessary, to protect Maryland's rural legacy.
For fiscal years 1998 through 2002, Governor Parris N. Glendening and the General Assembly have authorized the Rural Legacy Program to be funded with $23 million in General Obligation Bonds, $18.3 million from a scheduled 10% increase in the existing real estate transfer tax revenue for open space available to Program Open Space, and $30 million from the stateside land acquisition budget of Program Open Space, for a total of $71.3 million. Of these funds, $2 million per year may leverage an additional $18.2 to $70 million in Zero coupon U.S. Treasury notes to purchase easements, depending on the demand for these funds.
In addition, current land preservation and enhancement programs - Program Open Space and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program - remain the same. If funding and programs are continued at this level, the state could protect up to 200,000 acres of resource lands by the year 2011, helping to maintain Maryland's balance between open space and developed land.