Land Acquisition and Planning

Maryland's Rural Legacy Areas

The Rural Legacy Program was created in 1997 to protect large, contiguous tracts of Maryland's most precious cultural and natural resource lands through grants made to local applicants. A great deal of credit and praise goes to the Rural Legacy Advisory Committee, the Rural Legacy Board, Maryland's Board of Public Works, and the General Assembly for their support and advocacy of preserving "the best of what's left."

Maryland's Approved Rural Legacy Areas

Rural Legacy applications are reviewed by the Rural Legacy Advisory Committee, a panel of eleven volunteers appointed by the Governor. Their recommendations are then forwarded to the Rural Legacy Board which is comprised of the Secretaries of the Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Planning. Their recommendations are, in turn, reviewed and approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, comprised of the Governor, the Comptroller and the Treasurer. The following is a description of the all the approved Rural Legacy Areas participating in the program.

Agricultural Security Corridor-Tuckahoe Focus Area

Agricultural Security Corridor-Marshyhope Focus Area

Agricultural Security Corridor-Sassafras Focus Area
Sponsor: Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Inc.
Acres: 45,781
Jurisdiction: Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, and Talbot Counties

This Rural Legacy Area (RLA) combines three focus areas, the Marshyhope, Sassafras, and Tuckahoe areas, into one large RLA. In 1994 the corridor concept was developed to focus local, regional, and national efforts on one of the largest, contiguous blocks of highly productive farmland in the rapidly developing mid-Atlantic. Safeguarding the agricultural economy of the Eastern Shore is the goal of the three Agricultural Security Corridor focus areas. Located north and south of Federalsburg, the Marshyhope area is defined by an important river corridor, prime farms soils, a concentration of stable farm support businesses and an extensive public investment in farm preservation easements. The Sassafras area includes the Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area of Bloomfield Farm. The area is contiguous to thousands of acres of donated easements and existing agricultural easements and districts. It is rich in natural resources and historic farm structures dating from the 18th Century. The Tuckahoe area is located west and south of Denton. All three focus areas serve as an anchor for agricultural production and investment, buffering and enhancing the region’s natural, cultural, and open space priorities.

Anne Arundel South
Sponsor: Anne Arundel County
Acres: 37,381
Jurisdiction: Anne Arundel County

This Area is located in the heart of the County’s agricultural area. This Area completes a greenway of gently rolling farmland from the Patuxent River to the Rhode River on the Chesapeake Bay. The Area contains extensive tidal fresh and forested wetlands. There are four watersheds within this Area: the West River watershed, the Herring Bay watershed, the Rhode River watershed as well as the Patuxent River watershed. Major roads outlining the Area represent some of the County’s most scenic and historic roads that are dotted with large tobacco barns, a fast disappearing icon of South Maryland’s historic agriculture.

Baltimore County Coastal
Sponsor: Baltimore County
Acres: 14,109
Jurisdiction: Baltimore County

The northern boundary of this Area begins at the end of tidal influence in the Gunpowder Falls in Baltimore County, follows the shoreline around Gunpowder Delta Marsh/Day’s Cove section of Gunpowder Falls State Park, across the mouth of the Bird River, and along the forested shorelines of Carroll Island and Middle and Back River Necks. The Area continues to the east of Rocky Point, diverges to encircle Hart-Miller Island, and further west to include the marshes and forests of North Point State Park. The landward side approximately follows the edge of the densely populated areas of eastern Baltimore County back to the Gunpowder Delta. The RLA includes the highest concentration of natural resources values in the County (forest and agricultural lands as well as both fresh and tidal wetlands). Since the RLA has been created, a contiguous block of over 1,500 protected acres has been created on the Back River Neck peninsula. There are significant opportunities for increasing public access to the Chesapeake Bay and to protect shorelines.

Bear Creek
Sponsor: Garrett County
Acres: 31,457
Jurisdiction: Garrett County

This Area protects the Bear Creek watershed in the northern part of Garrett County. Garrett County’s most productive agricultural land is protected, which ensures the long-term viability of agriculture in the Area. The RLA also encompasses and provides additional protection for the Bear Creek drainage basin, Deep Creek Lake, the Cove scenic overlook, the Bear Creek Fish Hatchery, and a significant amount of State and private forested lands. Working farms, standing timber, view sheds, natural habitats and waterways are being preserved.

Calvert Creeks
  Sponsor: Calvert County Board of County Commissioners
Acres: 20,527
Jurisdiction: Calvert County

This Area includes four watersheds along the Patuxent River. This Area creates a greenbelt of protected land from the Patuxent River to the Chesapeake Bay. Sensitive habitats and the area around Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary and Parkers Creek are protected. This Area provides public access to Battle Creek and available hiking trails. Some of the most notable cultural resources in the county are being protected, such as Calvert Town, the Delhi Plantation, and archeological resources.

Carrollton Manor
Sponsor: Carrollton Manor Land Trust & Frederick County
Acres: 38,265
Jurisdiction: Frederick County

This Area creates an agricultural reserve/greenway through Central Maryland connecting two other Rural Legacy Areas, the Mid-Maryland Montgomery RLA and Mid-Maryland Frederick RLA. This Area includes farmland, river systems, scenic byways, and historic communities and will support the local agricultural economy, which produces beef, milk, hogs, horses, turkeys as well as corn, wheat, soybeans alfalfa, and a variety of vegetables. The Potomac National Heritage River and Monacacy Scenic River are within the RLA, as are two scenic byways – Route 15 and Route 28. Civil War battlefield sites, the C & O canal, and the land of Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll are part of the historic significance of Carrollton Manor.

Coastal Bays
Sponsor: County Commissioners of Worcester County
Acres:  45,945
Jurisdiction: Worcester County

The Area is considered one of the most ecologically diverse in the state. The Coastal Bays Rural Legacy Area encompasses farms, forests, wetlands, and wildlife habitats. This Area creates an east/west link between Pocomoke State Forest, the E. A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area, and Assateague Island National Seashore, creating a 70,000 acre block of preserved land. Falling within the Atlantic Coast Flyway, the Coastal Bays are part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. It also overlaps one of seven United States Department of Agriculture’s designated forest legacy areas. Protection bolsters the county’s major industries of tourism, farming, forestry, and fishing.

Deer Creek (formerly Lower Deer Creek)
Sponsor: Harford County
Acres: 66,701
Jurisdiction: Harford County

The Deer Creek Valley Rural Legacy Area is located in eastern Harford County. The Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area is located in eastern Harford County. The goal of the Rural Legacy Area is to preserve the historic rural character of the Deer Creek Valley while helping to protect the water quality along Deer Creek, connect other preserved properties, or are adjacent to protected lands leading to the establishment of a contiguous block of preserved land that is crucial to the character of the area. Most of the properties in the Area are actively farmed, and many contain significant natural and cultural resources including forests, habitats of rare, threatened and endangered species and over 400 inventoried historic sites. A portion of the Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area is included in the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, which is a Certified Maryland Heritage Area. In January 2009, the boundary of the Lower Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area was expanded to include the northern portion of the watershed, and renamed the Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area. This expansion connected the existing Lower Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area and the Manor Rural Legacy Area; creating a preservation belt from the Susquehanna River to Baltimore County.

Dividing Creek
Sponsor: Somerset and Worcester Counties and Lower Shore Land Trust
Acres: 55,527
Jurisdiction: Somerset and Worcester Counties

Dividing Creek Area includes one of the most pristine and ecologically significant watershed basins on the mid-Atlantic. Exemplary plant and wildlife habitats including Bald Cypress and Atlantic White Cedar swamps, forest interior and migratory songbirds, colonial waterbirds and the federally-endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel are found within the Area. The Area provides for the conservation of prime farmland, working forests and ten miles of shoreline of the Dividing Creek, which connects to the Pocomoke River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. The Area adds to a large block of already protected lands including the Pocomoke State Forest and Park, the Nassawango Creek Preserve and the Coastal Bays Rural Legacy Area. Located in two Maryland counties, the Area is a prime example of a cooperative effort between the State, local governments and local conservation organizations to protect the valuable resources in the Area.

Fair Hill
Sponsor: Cecil Land Trust
Acres: 26,562
Jurisdiction: Cecil County

The Fair Hill Rural Legacy Area is Cecil County’s most productive and economically important agricultural region. Much of the Area is already under various forms of protection. By contrast, the Area is also the most heavily traveled and rapidly developing due to its proximity to the I-95/Rt. 40 corridor. This Area improves water quality in the Big and Little Elk Creek watersheds and buffers and expands the state-owned Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, a landscape indicative of Cecil County’s rural and natural heritage.

Foreman Branch (formerly Chino Farms)
Sponsor: Queen Anne’s County
Acres: 11,691
Jurisdiction: Queen Anne’s County

The Foreman Branch Rural Legacy Area protects waterfront farms along the south shore of the Chester River East of Chestertown. Foreman Branch has 2.5 miles of river frontage, a 90 acre lake managed as a sanctuary for Canada Geese and other waterfowl, and several areas containing Delmarva Bays, globally unique wetlands harboring a number of endangered species. Protection of this Area will help improve the water quality of one of the most threatened watersheds in the state, preserve farms, woodlands, wetlands and wildlife habitat; and preserve one of the most scenic river landscapes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Gunpowder Valley
Sponsor: Gunpowder Valley Conservancy
Acres: 13,819
Jurisdiction: Baltimore County

The Area parallels the Gunpowder River and the adjacent River Valley protecting historic farmland, forests, natural and cultural areas on both sides of the Gunpowder River. This Area protects the Gunpowder's significant river frontage, which also protect the drinking water source for the Baltimore metropolitan area including Pretty Boy and Loch Raven Reservoirs. The scenic, rural, recreational, and historic areas of the region are protected in this Area, such as the popular Northern Central Railroad Trail.

Harriet Tubman
Sponsor: The Conservation Fund
Acres: 28,300
Jurisdiction: Dorchester

This 28,300-acre Eastern Shore landscape is an area lying largely in and adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Easement acquisitions within this Rural Legacy Area will protect and conserve working lands that reflect the natural, cultural, and historic landscape of Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy. The Rural Legacy Area consists of a broad corridor of farms, forests, and wetlands that once constituted Tubman’s familiar home territory. The pattern of roads, watercourses, land use, and settlement remain intact and remarkably evocative of the mid-nineteenth century. There are roughly 11,528 acres of agricultural land and 14,251 acres of forest, and, when this Rural Legacy Area was established in 2018 approximately 23% of the area was already in some form of permanent protection. This Rural Legacy Area is the center of the Harriet Tubman Historic Area, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and encompasses the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center.

Sponsor: Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust
Acres: 8,897
Jurisdiction: St. Mary’s County

Located on the northern end of St. Mary’s County, the Huntersville Rural Legacy Area includes twelve miles of Patuxent River shoreline extending from Trent Hall Creek to Horse Landing. It has significant agricultural, forestry, and environmental values including endangered species habitat, wetlands, historic structures and archeological sites. Portions of the Area are designated by the Smithsonian Center for Natural Areas as critical wildlife habitat in need of protection.

Lands End
Sponsor: Queen Anne’s County
Acres: 11,880
Jurisdiction: Queen Anne’s County

The Area contains Conquest Farm, which provides public access to the Corsica River, historic, agricultural/horticultural and environmental interpretation, other passive recreational uses, and protects wetlands and wildlife habitat. Significant amounts of shoreline along the Chester River is in the Area as well as prime waterfowl habitat and agricultural production.

Little Pipe Creek
Sponsor: Carroll County Commissioners
Acres: 58,575
Jurisdiction: Carroll County

The Area protects farmland, woodland, natural and cultural land within the Little Pipe Creek Watershed. Little Pipe Creek is a tributary of the Monocacy River that begins in Westminster and flows through New Windsor. Little Pipe Creek is an Area rich in surface streams and groundwater. The Area contains many sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Area forms a greenbelt around New Windsor, a National Register of Historic Places, and buffers other preserved farmland. The Area also provides for a greenbelt around Union Bridge.

Long Green Valley
Sponsor: Long Green Valley Conservancy
Acres: 18,274
Jurisdiction: Baltimore County

Located in the watershed of Long Green Creek, a tributary of Gunpowder Falls, the Long Green Valley Area includes rolling, wooded uplands, a scenic broad valley floor with pastures and farmland northeast between Gunpowder Falls and Little Gunpowder Falls. The Area contains significant habitat and wildlife corridors and much of the Area is in a National Register Historic District. The Area minimizes development threats to sensitive lands adjacent to the Loch Raven Reservoir and in the Long Green Valley.

Sponsor: The Manor Conservancy
Acres: 28,441
Jurisdiction: Baltimore and Harford Counties

The Manor Area is well known for its scenic beauty and historic structures, including the National Register Historic District of My Lady’s Manor, comprising the land given by the 3rd Lord Baltimore to his wife in 1713. The Area includes many productive horse and cattle farms and the Little Gunpowder Falls, a Class 3 trout stream and important Chesapeake tributary. Easement purchases fill in and round out an existing large block of preserved private lands enrolled in MET and MALPF easements. The Manor Area joins the Gunpowder Rural Legacy Area on the west, and extends across the Harford and Baltimore County boundary.

Sponsor: Southern Maryland Resource Conservation & Development
Acres: 16,850
Jurisdiction: St. Mary’s County  

Located in the southern portion of St. Mary’s County, the Area protects rich farmland, forests, wetlands, historic sites and wildlife habitat. Conservation within the Area provides water quality benefits to the Chesapeake Bay and the Saint Mary’s River watershed, which has been described by the Smithsonian as the most beautiful and pristine estuary on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. Protection of property in this Area also provides open space buffer to the military installation, Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Mid-Maryland Frederick
Sponsor: Frederick County Board of County Commissioners
Acres: 25,791
Jurisdiction: Frederick County

The Area borders the South Mountain area on the east side and is within the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail and South Mountain State Park. The Area builds on protecting two contiguous blocks of preserved land. Near Burkittsville and near Myersville, a greenbelt of protected land buffers the historic village of Burkittsville. Frederick County's most productive agricultural lands such as dairy operations and livestock farms are protected which promotes the resource based economy of the area.

Mid-Maryland Montgomery
Sponsor: Montgomery County
Acres: 49,907
Jurisdiction: Montgomery County

The Area protects farmland, open space and natural resources located within the heart of the County’s Agricultural Reserve. The Area contains large contiguous tracts of rural lands, numerous agricultural operations, and forest resources rich in both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Conservation within the Area provides water quality benefits to the Potomac River, a Maryland designated Scenic River.

Mid-Maryland Washington
Sponsor: Washington County Board of County Commissioners
Acres: 44,270
Jurisdiction: Washington County

The Area protects farmland, forests and Civil War sites, within view of the Washington Monument State Park, South Mountain Battlefield State Park, Antietam National Battlefield and its approaches. The Area provides a greenbelt around the town of Sharpsburg. Conservation within the Area also provides water quality benefits to the Potomac River, a Maryland designated Scenic River.

Mountain Ridge Rural Legacy Area
Sponsor: Allegany County
Acres: 31,014
Jurisdiction: Allegany County

Situated within the Ridge & Valley Physiographic Province where it meets the Allegheny Front, the first rural legacy area in Allegany County includes large blocks of unbroken forest, pristine ecologically significant areas and historic sites. It includes exemplary plant and wildlife habitat, an important migration corridor and perhaps the most significant golden eagle flyway in the state. The Area is delineated around 10,163 acres of existing protected lands which may be further connected and consolidated, forming a greenway potentially linking ridgetops in West Virginia with Pennsylvania, as well as westward into the Allegheny Plateau.

Sponsor: The Nature Conservancy
Acres: 51,396
Jurisdiction: Dorchester County

The Nanticoke RLA is located in the heart of the highly acclaimed Nanticoke watershed in Dorchester County. This Nanticoke watershed contains over one-third of all the State’s wetlands and is one of the most pristine and ecologically significant watershed basins in the mid-Atlantic. A greenbelt of exemplary plant and wildlife habitat, prime farmland, and large blocks of working forests is protected along 16 miles of shoreline of the Nanticoke River and Marshyhope Creek. The RLA creates growth boundaries around the rural village of Vienna. The Nanticoke RLA links the Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, the USFWS Blackwater Refuge, the State of Delaware’s Nanticoke Wildlife Area, and the existing Agriculture Security Corridor – Marshyhope RLA.

North Calvert
Sponsor: Calvert County
Acres: 10,515
Jurisdiction: Calvert County

This Area forms an 8-mile long greenway along the Patuxent River, a State Scenic River. Riparian buffers protect the sensitive wetlands and forests of four watersheds and conserve farmland and forest land, and provides habitat for resident and migrating species. The Area is also historically significant, including the historic town of Lower Marlboro that was active in the War of 1812 and was also an important port town until the 1930’s. Conservation of property in this Area supports the local resource-based economy.

Patuxent River – Prince George’s
Sponsor: Prince George's Soil Conservation District
Acres: 34,984
Jurisdiction: Prince George’s County

The Patuxent River Rural Legacy Area of Prince George’s County encompasses farmland, forests and natural resources along the Patuxent River watershed between Route 50 and Hughesville. It contains rural scenic roads, historic villages, farmland, forests, the Patuxent River Park, Patuxent River Natural Resource Management Area, and the Merkle Wildlife Management Area at Jug Bay. The Area is also rich in historic structures, many of which have been acquired for public use in the Patuxent Park system.

Piney Run
Sponsor: Land Preservation Trust, Inc.
Acres: 43,478
Jurisdiction: Baltimore County

This Area creates a large contiguous area of protected land, which promotes agricultural and natural resource characteristics in Baltimore County. While 95% of the land is undeveloped due to significant zoning measures and regional growth objectives, of the Piney Run Rural Legacy Area (RLA) protects the Baltimore water supply and one of the largest, contiguous easement blocks of land supporting agriculture and natural resource systems in the eastern United States.

Quantico Creek
Sponsor: Wicomico County and Lower Shore Land Trust
Acres: 35,818
Jurisdiction: Wicomico

The Area protects the rural character of the area and conserves its natural and cultural resources through preserving farms, forests, wetlands, water quality and wildlife habitat. This Area is recognized for its rural character, open lands, cultural significance, natural wildlife habitat and water quality impact on the Nanticoke Watershed. Protected land supports Wicomico County’s resource-based economy, contributing to the tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, agriculture and forest industries.

Upper Patapsco
Sponsor: Carroll County
Acres: 40,170
Jurisdiction: Carroll

The Area protects some of the County’s most productive farmland that can help secure a highly productive agricultural land base close to Baltimore. This Area includes most of the drainage basin of the East Branch of the Patapsco River, part of the West Branch, and makes up 16% of the Liberty Reservoir watershed in Carroll County (a drinking water supply for the metropolitan Baltimore area). The Maryland Historic Trust has identified thirty-three historic sites, including churches, cemeteries, mills, schoolhouses, and farmhouses relating to the traditional agricultural use of the area. The Area also includes significant bog turtle habitat, a State threatened species and a federally proposed threatened species.

Upper Patuxent Watershed - Howard County
Sponsor: Howard County
Acres: 11,201
Jurisdiction: Howard County

Land protection in the Area builds upon established private, county, and state preservation programs. By protecting several groundwater resources and feeder systems, water quality of the Patuxent River is improved. Land protection in the Area creates contiguous tracts of preserved farms and environmentally sensitive lands.

Upper Patuxent River Reservoir Watershed - Montgomery County
Sponsor: Montgomery County
Acres: 29,086
Jurisdiction: Montgomery County

Land protection in this Area protects water quality in reservoirs and the Patuxent River. The Area is adjacent to Patuxent River State Park. Land protection creates contiguous tracts of preserved farms and environmentally sensitive lands.

Zekiah Watershed
Sponsor: Charles County
Acres: 30,918
Jurisdiction: Charles County

The Zekiah Watershed Rural Legacy Area follows the watershed boundaries of the Zekiah Swamp Run. The Area is abundant with farms, forests, wetlands of Special State Concern, historic and archeological sites, and deposits rich in mineral aggregates. The Area contains the largest natural hardwood swamp in the state and is considered by the Smithsonian Institute to be one of the most important ecological areas on the East Coast. 


Rural Legacy Program Staff Contacts