Washington County now has 40,000 acres of preserved rural land

08 April 2024- The Washington County Division of Planning & Zoning announces, with the purchase of a conservation easement in March, Washington County has surpassed the 40,000-acre mark for permanently preserved land. This milestone puts the County just 10,000 acres away from its stated goal of 50,000 acres.

The easement was procured through a Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program (MALPP) easement that was sold by Bill and Debra Cushwa on their farm on Spickler Road in Clear Spring. While the Cushwa’s prefer to maintain a quiet existence on their picturesque family farm, they also understand the weight of this achievement in these times when development pressure is a concern among many citizens of the County and are proud that their property has pushed the County past the 40,000-acre milestone.  

MALPP is the County’s most prolific land preservation program, accounting for over 15,000 acres and over 38% of the permanent easements in the County. It is funded and administered by the Maryland Dept. of Agriculture’s (MDA’s) Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) and locally by the Land Preservation Office of the Washington County Department of Planning & Zoning. Each year, farm owners in the County have the ability to apply for this program which concentrates on preserving productive agricultural land in the County. The Cushwa easement was part of the fiscal year 2023 cycle and was the first of that cycle to settle an easement. Easement applications are submitted before July 1st of each year and offers are usually extended the following March.  

MALPP is just one of many programs that make up the Washington County Land Preservation strategy. Other programs include the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) Rural Legacy, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), and Project Open Space Stateside programs, the County’s Installment Purchase Program (IPP), local forest conservation easements, the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) and Federal Scenic Easements, as well as easements through agencies like MARBIDCO, Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), Antietam Battlefield Trust (ABT), Mid-Maryland Land Trust (MMLT) and others. While the majority of funding is generally earmarked through State funding sources, in recent years, the County itself has taken significant additional financial steps to bolster its programs.  

For more information regarding the land preservation programs in Washington County, please reach out to Chris Boggs, Rural Preservation Administrator, by phone at 240-313-2447 or via email at cboggs@washco-md.net.