Hagerstown, MD (December 6, 2023) – The Washington County Department of Planning & Zoning is currently accepting applications for its Agricultural Land Preservation District (Ag District) Program, Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program (MALPP), Rural Legacy Program (RLP), and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) easement program.
The Ag District program is a 10-year agreement between the landowner and the County that the land will stay in agriculture for those 10 years. In return, the landowner receives tax credits on their County property taxes every year they are in the program. After the agreement expires, the landowner may renew their agreement for subsequent terms of 5 years, or they may terminate the agreement and all restrictions are released. To qualify for the program, applicant properties must be at least 50 acres (or 20 acres if they are adjacent to other preserved lands), have at least 50% Class I, II, and III soils, and be located outside of any growth areas or municipalities.
The MALPP program is a permanent easement program that pays landowners to put their properties under a conservation easement in perpetuity. In return for selling their development rights, the landowner receives a lump sum check at settlement. MALPP easements are currently paying roughly $4700 per acre. To qualify for the program, applicant properties must be enrolled in the above Ag District program.
RLP is another permanent easement program paying landowners to preserve their properties in perpetuity for a lump sum payment at settlement. RLP easements are paying over $4000 per acre currently. To qualify for the program, applicant properties must be located in the Rural Legacy Area (RLA), a part of the County spanning outward from Antietam Battlefield and have development rights to sell. There is no minimum acreage for this program, but there are other qualifying criteria.
CREP easements are also perpetual easements that piggy-back off of the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) CREP Contract Program. If a landowner is enrolled in the CREP Contract, they may apply to put the rest of their property into a CREP easement. The payout varies depending on the CREP buffer associated with the landowner’s CREP Contract.
If you are a landowner interested in pursuing one of the above land preservation programs, the County is currently accepting applications. Please reach out to Chris Boggs, Rural Preservation Administrator for the Washington County Department of Planning and Zoning, at 240-313-2447 or via email at [email protected].