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Washington County’s efforts to preserve valuable farmland began in April 1978 with the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program (MALPP). Since that time, the land preservation effort has expanded to a total of 8 programs. To date, more than 25,000 acres have been permanently protected, with another 18,000 acres under temporary protection as 10 year Agricultural Districts. The County’s goal is to permanently preserve 50,000 acres of agricultural land and open space through its various easement programs.
|Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program (MALPP)||12,765||$32,560,750|
|Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)||251||$858,301|
|Installment Payment Program (IPP)||1,113||$6,110,000|
|Mid-Maryland Land Trust (MMLT)||227||Donated|
|Maryland Environmental Trust (MET)||4,650||$6,582,012|
|Forest Conservation* (2009-2011)||461|
|Other (Scenic Easements, Conservation Fund, etc.)||2,608|
*Forest Conservation includes easements required as part of subdivision or site plan activity as well as easements funded through Payment-in-Lieu (PIL) funds. **Program Acreage and Dollar amounts are subject to change and have been rounded for the purpose of displaying in a generalized table format.
This program encourages landowners to voluntarily enter into an Agricultural Land Preservation District in which it is agreed that the land will not be developed for a period of ten years. In return for the restriction, the landowner receives protection from nuisance complaints through the Right to Farm Ordinance, becomes eligible to sell Development Rights Easements through MALPP, and receives a property tax credit.
This Program was established and is regulated by Agricultural Article, Sections 2-501 through 2-515 of the Annotated Code of Maryland. The Washington County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board, the County Commissioners, and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) of the Maryland Department of Agriculture administer it through a Planning & Zoning Department staff member. In order to qualify for this program, the landowner must enter into a County District Agreement. Then they become eligible to sell a Development Rights Easements to the Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation provided that the offer to sell is recommended by the County’s Advisory Board and the County Commissioners. The Development Rights Easements are very competitive as there are many applicants to the program. The local Agricultural Advisory Board reviews and ranks easement applications, assigning a point value to such items as farm size, soil quality and development pressure indicators on its easement checklist. If purchased by the State of Maryland, the easement will remain effective in perpetuity.
The Installment Payment program was created for the purpose of accelerating land preservation easement purchases and providing an additional attractive Land Preservation Program for the agricultural landowners and citizens of Washington County. An owner of agricultural land, which meets the minimum qualifications, may make application to sell to the County an Agricultural Preservation Easement on the entire contiguous acreage of the land less one acre per existing dwelling located on the subject property. Payment shall be made by Installment Purchase Agreements. Once a landowner agrees to accept the County’s offer to purchase his or her development rights, an Installment Purchase Agreement (I.P.A.) between the County and the individual seller will be written. This Agreement includes the total amount of money that the County has agreed to pay the landowner and sets the terms of that Agreement including the fixed interest rate on which the landowner will receive annual payments. These IPAs shall be paid over a period of 10 years, with 10% of the principal being paid at settlement with the interest and 10% of the principal being paid annually for the remaining 9 years. Additionally, this program is very competitive and dependent on the current economic climate.
The Rural Legacy Program was enacted by the 1997 Maryland General Assembly. The program was created to focus on some of Maryland’s best natural, agricultural, historical and cultural areas and Maryland’s most significant rural landscapes. The Program encourages local governments and private land trusts to identify Rural Legacy Areas and to competitively apply for funds to complement existing lands preservation efforts or to develop new ones. Easements are sought from willing landowners in order to protect areas vulnerable to sprawl development that can weaken an area’s natural resources, thereby jeopardizing the economic value of farming, forestry, recreation and tourism. This program only purchases easements within a specified boundary, surrounding the towns of Sharpsburg, Keedysville, Boonsboro, and the Rural Villages of St. James, Lappans, Fairplay, Rohersville, and Gapland to name a few. The Rural Legacy Program in Washington County has permanently protected over 4,300 acres.
The State of Maryland has initiated an easement program to help the Chesapeake Bay. Currently there is a leasing program for CREP, but the State has made $12.5 million available to make the CREP areas into easements in perpetuity. Those in the CREP program include landowners that create buffers on highly erodible land or next to a waterway and landowners that restore natural wetlands. In order to qualify for this program, the landowner must have a current CREP lease on their land. The easement value is determined by the amount of acreage in the program and the current buffer width. There is currently no funding for CREP and the future prospects of the program have been left open-ended, but the County still monitors the land that has been put into the program.
First established in 1996, The Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to protect productive farm and ranchland. Working through existing programs, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. FRPP funds provide up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement. To qualify, farmland must: be part of a pending offer from a State, tribe, or local farmland protection program; be privately owned; have a conservation plan for highly erodible land; be large enough to sustain agricultural production; be accessible to markets for what the land produces; have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services; and have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production. Depending on funding availability, proposals must be submitted by the eligible entities to the appropriate Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Office. The program is not currently funded. Land Preservation staff monitor the availability of funds regularly to determine if the program will be available.
The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) was established in 1967, and partners with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). MET works with landowners who are willing to donate a conservation easement for tax deductions, tax credits and land protection purposes. Property owner with unique or valuable environmental resources can contact MET directly at or or contact County staff for referral.
In addition to the County’s various programs, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a Right to Farm Ordinance in October of 2003. The Right to Farm Ordinance provides protections for farmers against nuisance complaints in Washington County.