Baltimore County is a national leader in land preservation. It has consistently ranked in the top 10 counties for land preserved. Building on the first easement of 34 acres in 1975, the County now has over 70,000 acres of protected farmland, waterfront, stream valleys and natural lands. This successful effort is built upon the County’s growth management program, support for the farm industry and collaboration with the land preservation community.
The County uses innovative and collaborative funding mechanisms for land preservation in Baltimore County’s Agricultural Preservation Protection Areas. With advanced planning and zoning practices, identification of growth centers, innovative environmental programs, and proactive land and resource protection efforts, the County has established a nationally recognized land preservation strategy. There are many benefits from this comprehensive approach, including:
- More compact and cost effective development
- Land resources preserved to support a viable agricultural community
- Retention of forest and habitat for wildlife
- Preservation of our agricultural heritage
- Protection of water quality for our local streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay
Baltimore County, working with a number of interests groups and State agencies, has created a variety of options to promote preservation of our land and natural resources.
About Conservation Easement Programs
A conservation easement is a voluntary, written deed agreement to protect conservation features of property; for example, farmland, natural resources and scenic views. Easements prohibit more intensive land uses such as commercial, industrial and high-density residential development. Learn more about:
Use the easement locator tool to see the progress the County has made preserving agricultural and forested land. The application combines the data layers and functionality of the previous My Neighborhood and Find Tile ArcIMS applications into a single, easy-to-use interactive mapping tool.
Landowners retain all rights of ownership, privacy and uses within the terms of the easement. An easement runs with the property, in perpetuity, and carries certain responsibilities, such as maintaining a current soil and water conservation or forestry plan and otherwise upholding the terms of the Deed of Conservation Easement.
- Buying and Selling—A property under an easement can be bought and sold; the easement is recorded in the Land Records of the County government and future property owners remain legally bound by it. Prospective buyers of properties under conservation are advised to carefully read the Deed of Conservation Easement and contact the organization (referred to in the Deed as the Grantee) responsible for maintaining the easement.
- Access—An easement will not grant public access to a landowner's property; however, some programs give financial incentives to provide access to the water or existing trails.
- Changes to Property—If a landowner wishes to make a change to a property already under easement—such as building a new structure—the first step is to read the Deed of Conservation Easement. Then, contact the agency that holds the easement to discuss your plans.
- Protection of Land—Landowners who want to protect the rural or scenic character, family or historical heritage, or natural resource and wildlife value of their land may donate or sell conservation easements as a way to protect those values in perpetuity. Easements may also be a part of the estate planning process, thus making it easier to pass land to the owners' heirs.
- Financial Benefits—Depending on the program, landowners will either be paid for the sale of the easement or may be eligible for tax benefits associated with an easement donation. Tax benefits vary based on specific federal and state requirements, the value of the easement, its purpose, income and estate tax circumstances, and other factors. Consult your tax advisor for additional information.
Each program has different criteria that must be met to be selected to participate. Some programs have acreage requirements. Private land trusts often accept smaller properties, especially those contiguous to other easements or valued natural and agricultural tracts.
Landowners can choose from a variety of easement programs that depend on factors such as land use, location and whether it is a donation or easement sale. If you are considering applying for the program we recommend that you contact your financial and legal advisors to determine the tax implications of an easement sale or donation. Program information, eligibility and application forms are provided below.
Created in 1994 to preserve working family farms, the Baltimore County program has used innovative and collaborative funding mechanisms for land preservation. To be eligible, a farm must be at least 20 acres if contiguous to a preserved farm, be located in the Agricultural Preservation Protection Areas and meet certain soil criteria. Applications are on an annual basis.
The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) is a cooperative program with the State and County and is the main Agricultural Land Easement Program in the County. Owners of farmland in the County should first review this program before considering the other options listed below. To be eligible, the farm has to meet specific criteria for size, soil and location.
The purpose of the imminently threatened farm preservation program is to protect high quality land that is in imminent threat of conversion such as transition of farm operation within the family, financial difficulties that jeopardize the farm operation and imminent development. Applications can be made at any time to Baltimore County.
- Contact Land Preservation staff for application.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, Natural Resources conservation Service (NRCS) helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations (such as land trusts) protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. For information on how to apply, visit the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.
Created in 1997 by the Maryland General Assembly, this program seeks to set aside large blocks of rural lands for the protection of natural and scenic resources and the fostering of rural industries such as agriculture and forestry. Baltimore County adopted and also funds the Rural Legacy Program.
In addition to purchasing easements on farmland, this program emphasizes the protection of lands that are forested, have stream valleys or are along the shoreline. State approved Rural Legacy areas in Baltimore County include Coastal, Gunpowder, Long Green, Manor, and Piney Run. Individual Rural Legacy areas are administered by local land trusts.
For general program information, contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. For specific information, contact the Rural Legacy area sponsors listed below:
- Gunpowder Valley Conservancy
- Manor Conservancy
- Long Green Valley Conservancy
- Piney Run email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Coastal Rural Legacy Program
Coastal Rural Legacy Area
The Coastal Rural Legacy area of Baltimore County is among the richest in resources within the County and is the most threatened by development. The area encompasses 15,433 acres of vital wetlands, forests, marshes, farmland and habitat along the shoreline of the Upper Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Coastal Rural Legacy area includes:
- Gunpowder Delta
- Bird River
- Dundee and Saltpeter
- Bowley’s Quarters
- Back River and Holly Neck
- Fort Howard
The preservation of the large blocks of forest and wetland areas creates a system of environmental reserves, which is extremely important in the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The 109 miles of coastal area shoreline serves as an essential buffer area between urbanized portions of Baltimore County and the Bay. Significant progress has been made in protecting these areas and if support continues, the long-term goal of protecting 11,700 acres can be achieved.
The Coastal Rural Legacy Area is cosponsored by Baltimore County and the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy. Landowners interested in exploring conservation options for their property in this area should contact County Land Preservation staff at email@example.com.
Created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1967 to protect Maryland's natural environment, the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) seeks donated easements on farms and forestlands, wildlife habitats, waterfront acreages, natural areas, historic sites and other valuable and scenic features. Both MET and local land trusts prefer to accept donations on lands greater than 25 acres, though smaller properties may qualify if they meet additional criteria.
Donations are accepted all year. Landowners may qualify for a significant tax benefits. For more information, contact the Maryland Environmental Trust.
Working with Maryland Environmental Trust, another option is to donate or sell an easement to a local land trust. While a local land trust may not provide any state tax benefits, land owners may still be eligible for federal tax benefits. In addition, individual land trusts are a good source of information on preservation options.
County Land Trusts:
- Gunpowder Valley Conservancy
- Manor Conservancy
- Long Green Land Trust
- Email Caves Valley Land Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Land Preservation Trust
How to Apply for Easement Programs
Interested landowners are encouraged to submit applications to Baltimore County Land Preservation or other easement organizations. Once the applications have been received, the County or Land Trust will review the application to see if it meets the program criteria. If it does not, landowners will be advised of other programs that may be applicable. It is recommended that you contact staff to discuss your application before you file.
- Landowner Signature—Ensure that all of the owners in title to the property sign the application. An easement is recorded in the Land Records and binds the property, therefore all owners must be in agreement to proceed with an easement.
- Applicant—Provide your name and a mailing address where we can contact you. If the property is owned by a corporation or business please provide that name and address.
- Full Names of Children—This information is needed if your easement permits the future release of lots for children. This does not limit you if you do not have children at this time.
- Location of Property—Indicate the address of the property that you are applying for an easement sale.
- Calculation of Easement Acreage—List the total acreage of the property as currently indicated in the deed. If you wish to exclude a portion of the property from the easement, please indicate that amount of acreage. A request will be reviewed for density and impact on the farm capability.
- Deed Reference—Indicate the deed reference number. It can be found at the top of the deed or is listed in your tax account summary page.
- Previous Applications—Indicate whether you have applied before. If you have applied before, indicate the year you applied.
- Mineral Rights, Mortgages or Liens—Complete as appropriate for your property. It is unusual for the mineral rights to be separated in Baltimore County but it does happen. This means that someone else can come on the property to access the mineral resources. Please also list whether you have a mortgage, home equity loan or any other “lien” on the property.
- Soil Conservation or Forestry Plan—Please provide information on whether there is a Soil Conservation and Water Quality Plan and Forest Management Plan. You can also submit a copy of the plan.
- Subdivision—Indicate how much density remains on the property over and above your existing dwelling or right for a dwelling.
- Land Use—Estimate as best you can the acreage in forest, pasture, and crop. This will also be checked using aerials and the computer data from the State.
- Access to Water—Describe what water access or potential water access you have for agricultural uses.
- Farm Ownership—Indicate whether you own and operate the farm as part of a larger operation or lease the farm or whatever the situation is for the property.
- Structures—Indicate the size of existing agricultural structures. We use this information to create a documentation of what was on the property at the time of the easement sale and to evaluate the capital improvements related to agriculture.
- Residences—Indicate the number of residences, size and the uses.
- Application Questionnaire—The applications are all ranked according to information that is available for the property. Please use the questionnaire to provide additional information or expand on information requested. You may also wish to add information such as the productivity or whatever you think should be considered in the review of your farm application.
Compliance Under Easement
There are certain rules and restrictions that are enforced once a property is put under easement. These rules can be reviewed in the Deed of Easement, which apply to the property even if the current owner did not place the property in the easement program. The organization holding the easement (Grantee) is required to inspect the easement periodically for compliance. The inspection forms are available below.
Listed below are commonly requested forms related to land preservation programs and easement inspections.
Easement Inspection Forms
- Baltimore County Inspection Form—Used by Baltimore County to inspect your property once easement has been settled.
- Maryland Agricultural Land Protection Foundation (MALPF)—Find forms used by the state to inspect your property once easement has been settled.
- Federal Farm and Ranch Protection Program (FRPP)—Find forms used by the federal government to inspect your property once an easement has been settled.
Land Preservation Forms
- Child’s Lot Application—Baltimore County Easement Program—Requesting a lot for a child for a property that is already under a Baltimore County agricultural easement in accordance with the Deed of Easement. The original seller, as defined in COBAR 24.3.108C of the easement, is eligible to apply for a one acre lot for an eligible child for the purpose of constructing a dwelling house intended for the child's use.
- Child’s Lot Declaration of Intent Affidavit—Baltimore County Easement Program—Request the release of an approved child's lot on a Baltimore County agricultural easement. Form must be notarized.
- Family Lot for State MALPF Easement Program—Requesting a lot for a child or an owner for a property that is already under a Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation easement in accordance with the Deed of Easement. The original seller, as defined in COBAR 24.3.108C of the easement, is eligible to apply for a one acre lot for an eligible child for the purpose of constructing a dwelling house intended for the child's use.
- Tenant Farmer’s Dwelling Application—RM-19—Request a tenant dwelling for a farm, as defined in COBAR 24.3.108D. Form must be notarized.
- Rural Accessory Uses/Reduced Acreage Application—A-17—Use if the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections requests the legitimacy of the farm operation.
- Agricultural Subdivision—County—For property owners requesting approval for an agricultural subdivision of their property under the Baltimore County Program.
- Agricultural Subdivision—State—For property owners requesting approval for an agricultural subdivision of their property under the MALPF Program.