Land Acquisition and Planning

Program Open Space Stateside

Established in 1969, Program Open Space (POS) symbolizes Maryland’s long-term commitment to conserving natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities. Program Open Space Stateside preserves natural areas for public recreation and watershed and wildlife protection across Maryland through fee simple and conservation easement acquisitions. Fee simple acquisitions are managed by the department as State Parks, Forests, and Wildlife and Fisheries Management Areas.


The Department of Natural Resources evaluates all potential land acquisitions using a process that balances protection of conservation attributes with practical land management needs for public recreation. The department has implemented a targeting process that strives to meet the department’s statutory mission to conserve ecologically valuable lands and provide public recreation opportunities while maximizing available funding.

Potential acquisitions are reviewed based on two categories, Land and People. Land examines the ecological value of the property focusing on wildlife habitat connectivity; presence of rare or endangered species; support of aquatic life; forests important for water quality protection; location of the property with respect to Targeted Ecological Areas; restoration opportunity, and climate change adaptation. People examines how the property would provide exceptionally high value resource-based recreation, such as a new land unit for public access, or a new recreational opportunity such as a public beach or water access in an access-limited area or a critical trail connection; would provide an opportunity to expand or connect existing recreation opportunities, especially in areas that experience capacity pressures; is an in-holding or adjacent parcel that will address important, long term management concerns for an existing land management unit; buffer existing lands or contributes to large landscape protection; conserve the natural features of the property; enhance coastal community resilience to climate change impacts; and has educational, cultural or historical value.

The Land and the People components of the evaluation are equally important in guiding the department’s decision whether to acquire a property or conservation easement. POS Stateside funding is also be used for the purchase of permanent Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) easements. CREP easements make permanent the conservation practices established through 10 to 15 year CREP contracts.

Program Open Space Stateside Contacts – Who to Call