Maryland GreenPrint and Program Open Space

Through GreenPrint and Program Open Space, the State of Maryland has established a set of land conservation and acquisition data tools and programs to protect open space, environmental resources, and rural lands to meet statewide ecological objectives. The tools and programs are used to help the state adapt to climate change by removing barriers to the inland migration of coastal ecosystems in response to impacts like sea-level rise and land loss. Specifically, a statewide mapping tool called Maryland GreenPrint, which displays lands and watersheds of high ecological value, supports prioritized and transparent decision making, and increased resilience for vulnerable coastal habitats. GreenPrint allows the state to factor future sea-level rise, habitat projections, and migration corridors into its land purchases through Program Open Space, the state’s open space acquisition program. Together, GreenPrint and Program Open Space provide one example of how a state can incorporate climate change data and tools to facilitate wetland migration into land acquisitions for managed retreat and conservation purposes. 

Maryland GreenPrint displays maps of important conservation areas and priorities. The tool includes a data layering function that allows the state to identify "Targeted Ecological Areas" (TEAs), which are used to allocate state funds to support the protection of Maryland’s most ecologically valuable lands and watersheds. Climate change considerations and other natural resource data have been incorporated into GreenPrint to track future sea-level rise inundation of TEAs so that the state can avoid purchasing land that is projected to be submerged by 2050. A data layer for “Wetland Adaptation Areas” displays patterns of future wetland migration using predictive modeling informed by the Sea-Level Rise Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM)

With GreenPrint, Maryland is also allocating state funding to acquire and conserve areas of maximum ecological benefit to support climate resilience and help preserve the long-term survival of wetlands. Program Open Space (POS), established in 1969 and administered by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is an example of a land acquisition and planning program that utilizes the GreenPrint map and data layers. Through POS, the state purchases fee-simple lands and less-than-fee-simple conservation easements for the purposes of watershed protection and public recreation. The program operates at both the state and local levels and decision makers use GreenPrint to identify TEAs and then assesses, scores, and prioritizes land for acquisition. This ensures potential land acquisitions are reviewed for climate change impacts including sea-level rise and wetland migration. DNR is also incorporating these considerations into its purchase of Coastal Resilience Conservation Easements for development setbacks and wetland buffers in the state’s coastal zone to support Wetland Adaptation Areas. 

At the state level, POS is funded by a transfer tax on every real estate transaction in the state. At the local level, POS is funded by the state’s Outdoor Recreation Land Loan of 1969 and the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the National Park Service administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior for preserving open and recreational spaces in local communities. Strategic priority setting for land conservation allows the state and local governments to maximize available funding. 

Maryland’s commitment to POS has conserved natural resources while providing outdoor recreational opportunities and reducing climate change risks for communities and ecosystems. While POS acquires land for open space and conservation purposes, states can also consider leveraging hazard mitigation buyout programs to acquire developed properties experiencing flood risks to support comprehensive land acquisition policies.


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  • State of Maryland

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