Targeting Spending for Land Conservation: An Evaluation of Maryland's Rural Legacy Program

Rebecca Lewis and Gerrit-Jan Knaap (2012)

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In 1997, Maryland burst into the national spotlight with a package of legislation collectively referred to as smart growth. At its core, the innovative Maryland approach relied on directing state investments in urban infrastructure to Priority Funding Areas while directing state investments in land preservation to rural legacy areas. This article examines the performance of Rural Legacy Areas. Although smart growth in Maryland and the performance of Priority Funding Areas have received considerable attention at the national level, there have been few analyses of the performance of the Rural Legacy Program.

Lewis and Knaap find that the performance of Rural Legacy Areas has been mixed. The level of state funding has varied tremendously, and few areas have received consistent funding over time. In areas where the state has targeted high levels of funding for several years, however, development in Rural Legacy Areas has been tempered. Overall the share of development in Rural Legacy Areas measured in parcels has increased slightly, but the share of development measured in acres has decreased slightly.