Land Acquisition and Planning

Land Conservation

​The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been a national leader in land conservation for more than 50 years. The DNR programs listed below have all brought national recognition to Maryland and are used by other states to model programs that will repeat the success Maryland has had with land conservation and recreation. Together, these programs will continue to meet the challenges of land conservation and recreation for our citizens.

Program Open Space (POS)

Established under the Department of Natural Resources in 1969, POS symbolizes Maryland's long term commitment to conserving our natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities for our citizens. Funding for Program Open Space typically comes from the collection of a 0.5% State property transfer tax. Transfer tax funding of POS is designed with a direct correlation between development pressures and available funding for open space and recreational facilities for the public good.

The Program also administers and leverages federal funds including funds provided through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund.

POS has two components.

  • Program Open Space Stateside preserves natural areas for public recreation and watershed and wildlife protection across Maryland through the acquisition of fee simple land and conservation easements. Fee simple purchases are managed by DNR as State Parks, Forests, and Wildlife and Fisheries Management Areas. A portion of stateside funds are also dedicated to capital improvements, critical maintenance, and operations in state parks. POS Stateside projects are driven by a Targeting System, which uses the best scientific information available to target the program's limited funds.

  • Program Open Space Local provides financial and technical assistance to local subdivisions (counties and municipalities) for the planning, acquisition, and/or development of recreation land or open space areas to meet their specific local land conservation and recreation goals consistent with their local Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plans. To date over 6,700 projects have been funded through POS Local.

Maryland's Rural Legacy Program (RLP)

Maryland's Rural Legacy Program (RLP) was created within the DNR to preserve large blocks of working rural lands for future generations. The Program protects natural, cultural, agricultural, and forest land statewide by granting funds to local governments and land trusts, our local program sponsors, to conserve land through easement and fee purchases within designated rural legacy areas. Currently there are 35​ Rural Legacy Areas throughout the state. The RLP uses an objective scoring approach to review and allocate its limited grant funds.

Maryland Environmental Trust (MET)

The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) was formed in 1967 to conserve, improve, stimulate, and perpetuate the aesthetic, natural, scenic and cultural aspects of Maryland’s environment. The Trust also promotes conservation of open space and appreciation of the environment and its care. MET programs now include Land Conservation, Monitoring and Stewardship, Local Land Trust Assistance, and the Keep Maryland Beautiful Grants Program.

Tracking Our Progress

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Tracking Our Progress: Acreage Reports page includes information about the amount of land protected in Maryland by various programs. The DNR Acreage Report tracks state lands purchased by the Department of Natural Resources. The page also has details about individual programs that protect land by fee simple ownership and long-term or permanent easements. The Maryland Land Preservation Dashboard incorporates data from local, state, federal, and non-governmental preservation programs.