Preservation Programs

Harford County Agricultural Land Preservation

The Harford County Purchase of Development Rights Program and Agricultural Land Preservation allow a landowner the option to permanently preserve their property or enter into a temporary agreement as a precursor to permanent preservation.

Purchase of Development Rights
Harford County agricultural land preservation easements are Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) contracts that permanently extinguish all preexisting development potential of a particular property and are not used to offset development elsewhere in the county. Other than very limited rights reserved to the original grantor and their immediate family, no further commercial or residential subdivision is permitted. The grantor of the easement and all subsequent owners of the property retain full fee simple ownership of the land but are bound by the terms of the deed of easement.

Agricultural Preservation District
A district agreement is a five-year commitment by a property owner limiting the subdivision of a parcel in return for a tax credit of $50 per acre, offsetting up to 50% of that parcel’s Harford County property tax. After the five-year term has expired, the agreement and tax credit remain in effect until the property owner requests termination. Upon termination, all accrued property tax credits must be refunded to Harford County. Property owners can request a district agreement at any time and it is not a prerequisite for a permanent easement.

MALPF Program

The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF)easements are maintained by the Maryland Department of Agriculture; the Harford County agricultural preservation coordinator serves as the local program administrator. MALPF easements contain limited subdivision rights for the original grantor and immediate family members.

For general information on the MALPF program or the application process, please contact the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning at 410-638-3103.

Maryland Environmental Trust

The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) accepts donated easements that are individually negotiated with landowners. As such, they are highly customized and site specific, designed to protect a property’s environmental features.

There is no cash consideration given for the easement, but landowners may be eligible for state and federal income, estate and capital gains tax benefits based on before and after market value appraisals of the property. The easements are held by the MET, with the county serving as the liaison after the easement is recorded.

Rural Legacy Program

The Rural Legacy (RL) Program is a unique approach to land conservation created to protect Maryland's best remaining landscapes and natural areas. Rural Legacy Areas (RLA) are specifically outlined geographic areas for which preservation grants are applied for through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Purchased easements may include specific resource protection conditions as well as the permanent retirement of development rights. In addition to agricultural value, applications are evaluated on specific natural resource protection features. Rural Legacy easements contain no further subdivision options.

Harford County administers the Deer Creek RLA, which includes nearly 67,000 acres within the Deer Creek watershed. The Manor Conservancy RLA includes more than 28,000 acres in Baltimore and Harford counties. 

While not directly involved with their easement, Harford County also works with private groups such as the Harford Land Trust and Manor Conservancy and other entities to facilitate land preservation efforts.