Carroll County officials continue to work toward the county’s goal of preserving 100,000 acres of agricultural land and now have fewer than 24,000 acres to go.
Last week, the Board of County Commissioners approved a request from the county’s Department of Land and Resource Management to submit a fiscal 2023 grant application and to accept a grant award from the state’s Rural Legacy Program.
Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program offers funding for land preservation and creates public-private partnerships “to allow those who know the landscape best — land trusts and local governments — to determine the best way to protect the landscapes that are critical to our economy, environment and quality of life.”
Carroll County’s agricultural land preservation effort is the most successful in the state, having preserved more farms and acres through the purchase of conservation easements than any other county. Carroll County’s program also ranks among the top five such programs operated by local governments in the United States. Operating since 1980, the Carroll program has preserved more than 650 farms comprising more than 70,000 acres.
Administered by the state’s Department of Natural Resources, grants are provided to sponsors to supplement their land preservation efforts. Carroll County has been a major recipient of these grants, totaling more than $20 million since 2000.
Carroll has two designated Rural Legacy Areas: the Upper Patapsco RLA in the east/northeast portion and the Little Pipe Creek RLA in the west/northwest portion of the county.
The county aims to preserve agricultural land by paying willing landowners to permanently retire the development potential of their land located in these areas. Properties must have development potential, and preference is given to properties of more than 30 acres.
“Right now, our total acreage preserved is 76,885 acres,” said J.P. Smith, an agricultural land preservation manager. “This past year we received just over $820,000 and we already have most of that money committed to new preservation easements.”
Each year, the county is invited to submit an application to the state program for additional grant monies, Smith said.
Through a collaboration of agricultural interests and county officials, the 100,000—acre goal was determined to be the minimum acreage needed to maintain a viable agricultural base in Carroll County.