Placing agricultural land under an easement represents a commitment to maintain agricultural use of the property rather than convert it to some form of urban development. Donating or selling an easement prevents existing and future owners from developing the land. Where substantial acreage is covered by easements and active farming and forest management, land-owners may be less likely to disinvest in their operations—sustainable agriculture is more likely to be practiced. In such areas, too, businesses supporting resource-based uses–agricultural or forestry infrastructure–can be more readily maintained. When urban type development is more contained, potential conflicts between agricultural and forestry interests and non-farm residents or businesses can be reduced. All of this helps maintain the rural, resource-based economy.
Information on the numbers and locations of agricultural easements in the State is maintained by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) and periodically provided to DNR for inclusion in a GIS layer of protected lands. To develop this indicator, easement information from 2000 and 2001 was combined with National Land Cover Data set (NLCD) information on forest cover.
Where there are clusters of agricultural easements already, local planners may want to work to promote the continuation of farming, including the acquisition of additional easements, passing right-to-farm ordinances or undertaking special marketing initiatives. Forest resources on areas under agricultural easement may be appropriate as a focus of forest management assistance programs of the State. Locations where individual owners have sold easements may also be particularly appropriate for encouraging and assisting with restoration activities, especially those that help to conserve soil and water resources necessary for the long-term productivity of the land.