Governor Moore Announces Maryland Meets 30% of State Land Conservation Goal Six Years Ahead of Schedule

seal for the office of the Governor Wes Moore

Annapolis, MD – Governor Wes Moore today announced that Maryland has achieved a milestone goal for land conservation required by state legislation six years ahead of schedule. The Maryland Department of Planning, in the latest update of the Maryland Protected Lands Dashboard, reports that Maryland has already met the 30% mark with more than 1.85 million acres of land conserved as of February.

“From the forests of Mountain Maryland to the coastal plains of the Eastern Shore, Maryland’s natural beauty must be protected. Land conservation isn’t optional—it’s a prerequisite for success,” said Gov. Moore. “By moving in partnership, we are meeting our goals ahead of schedule. But we know there’s more left to do. I will work closely with state and local leaders to find as many opportunities as we can to add to the state’s growing portfolio of public and protected lands, so we can reach our 40% conservation goal by 2040.”

Land conservation means to permanently protect land from development through purchase, donation, easement, or fee ownership to preserve the cultural, historical, ecological, or agricultural value of the land. The Maryland the Beautiful Act of 2023 established goals of conserving 30% of the land in the state by 2030 and 40% by 2040. Land protected by state agencies, local governments, nonprofit land trusts, and the federal government all count towards the goal. Maryland’s total land area is about 6.1 million acres.

The state’s “30 by 30” goal is consistent with President Biden’s executive order which sets the goal of conserving at least 30% of the country’s lands and waters by 2030. Land conserved in Maryland also counts towards the Chesapeake Bay Agreement goal to protect an additional two million acres of lands throughout the watershed by 2025.

“Maryland has long been a leader in land conservation,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz. “Meeting the ‘30 by 30’ goal is a great example of what we can accomplish by working in close partnership across all levels of government as well as with the nonprofit and private sectors. This statewide effort is protecting working farms, forests, and ecological resources, while also providing critical public access to open space throughout the state.”

Maryland’s state conservation programs and operations include Program Open Space, the Rural Legacy Program, the Maryland Environmental Trust, and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. A core component of implementing these programs is strong partnerships with local governments, nonprofit land trusts, and willing landowners throughout the state. Maryland also works closely with federal agency partners to secure grant funding and advance large landscape protection initiatives.

The Department of Natural Resources’ public land portfolio is the largest sector of protected land at 502,307 acres, or about 33% of the total protected lands in Maryland. The second largest sector includes 361,746 acres of land protected through the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, while the third largest sector is made up of 236,590 acres of privately held land where development rights were either transferred or sold through county preservation programs. The state’s Department of Planning is tracking land conservation statistics and updates the figures through a dashboard on its website.

“As an early national leader in Smart Growth land use policies, the Maryland Department of Planning has been a partner in land conservation activities through compact development and growth strategies across the state,” said Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Rebecca Flora, AICP. “The outcomes of these and other cross-agency conservation strategies are well documented through our Maryland Protected Lands Dashboard, which tracks progress toward our shared objectives.”

The Department of Agriculture primarily conserves land through its Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation that purchases easements that permanently restrict development on prime farmland and woodland. The easements enable farmers to continue agricultural activities on conserved land, but generally prohibits subdividing the land for residential uses.

“The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation does incredible work preserving farmland throughout the state,” said Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks. “Keeping ag land in production guarantees future generations of Marylanders will continue to have access to local, fresh food while supporting the state’s number one industry. Reaching this goal demonstrates our commitment to preserving our state’s beautiful and economically productive landscape.”

Reaching the goal was also made possible thanks to the wide-ranging efforts by land conservation organizations in Maryland including those that make up the Partners for Open Space. Land trusts and conservation organizations help raise private funding to conserve properties and connect private property owners who are interested in preserving their land with government resources that make it possible.

“Land conservation is about working together to ensure a future of local foods, healthy ecosystems, vibrant biodiversity, clean water, carbon sequestration, connected communities, great spaces for mental and physical wellbeing and more,” said Partners for Open Space Chair Owen Bailey. “Reaching this 30% milestone speaks volumes about the effectiveness of Maryland’s conservation community, but reaching 40% by 2040 will require an even deeper commitment from our state’s invaluable conservation partners.”

Now that the state has met the 30% land conservation goal, state agencies are developing plans to reach the 40% goal by 2040, which requires the state to conserve an additional 600,000 acres.

Property owners who are interested in selling, donating, or placing a conservation easement on their property to protect their land for future generations, should review options provided by the following agencies and offices: