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State officials agreed yesterday to pay more than $2.7 million to buy development rights on about 360 acres of farmland and forest in three stream watersheds in the Baltimore area.

The Board of Public Works approved spending $1.6 million to place conservation easements on four tracts totaling 192 acres along Deer Creek in Harford County. The easements will guarantee maintenance of green buffers along parts of the creek, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

In one Deer Creek case, the landowner agreed to accept state payment not to proceed with plans to build six houses on his tract, according to Ned Sayre, who works on farmland preservation efforts for the county. About 45 percent of the undeveloped land in the creek's watershed in Harford has been preserved from development, he said.

In Baltimore County, the board agreed to pay a landowner $451,457 for development rights on 62 acres in the watershed of Little Gunpowder Falls, another bay tributary. The tract is a mix of woods and pasture, with 1,800 feet along streams feeding into the Little Gunpowder.

The board, made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer, also approved paying $653,096 to place a conservation easement on 107 acres of farmland along Little Pipe Creek in Carroll County. About 2,500 feet of stream bank will be permanently forested, state officials said, to protect against runoff.

The easement purchases were made through the Rural Legacy Program, which seeks to preserve large connected tracts that help protect water quality and natural resources while allowing continued farming or forestry. Since the program began 12 years ago, the state has spent nearly $187 million to preserve 62,841 acres of farmland, forests and natural areas.

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