Eastern Shore Land Conservancy


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Conserve, steward, and advocate for the unique rural landscape of the Eastern Shore.

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Big Changes on the Horizon for the CREP Easement Program

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is excited to announce a major change to one of its purchased conservation easement programs. At the January Board of Public Works meeting, the State of Maryland approved a statewide expansion of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) permanent easement program. This brings program benefits for the first time to 14 additional counties. 

ESLC has been a partner for this program since the early 2000s, and to date it has only been available in Caroline, Dorchester, and Queen Anne’s counties. Now properties in Talbot, Kent, and Cecil counties are also eligible. ESLC is excited to continue to partner with the Department of Natural Resources to provide these expanded benefits to its community. 

What is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program?

The CREP program is designed to enhance water quality and create wildlife habitat. This is done through the removal of highly erodible croplands and marginal pastureland from production in favor of implementing best management practices, such as cool and warm season grass buffers. Landowners can receive a payment for the implementation of these practices, through 10-to-15-year contracts with the Farm Service Agency (FSA), a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you are interested in learning more about which practices fall within CREP, or whether CREP is right for your farm, please reach out to your County FSA office.

How does the CREP permanent conservation easement program work?

In 2009, the State of Maryland, through the Department of Natural Resources, developed a program to further reward landowners for implementation of CREP practices. The purchased conservation easement program was designed to secure those practices in perpetuity. Landowners who have active contracts for CREP practices through the FSA can apply through DNR or an authorized administrator – like ESLC – to protect those practices and surrounding lands in perpetuity. Landowners are incentivized to commit to the conservation easement through a one-time payment for that easement, based on the number of acres of CREP contract, availability of match acres of woodlands, voluntary grasslands and pasturelands, as well as whether the easement achieves whole farm protection. Landowners who choose to complete a CREP permanent easement are not eligible to renew their CREP contracts once they expire. The State of Maryland website has additional resources regarding this program

What’s next?

ESLC has signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the state to continue to administer the updated CREP permanent easement program in its six-county service area. With the change to statewide availability, ESLC is hoping that the CREP program will provide a new pathway for land protection for landowners who have not been eligible before. 

If you are interested in learning more about this program, or seeing if your property may be eligible, please contact ESLC’s Director of Land Conservation, David Satterfield, at dsatterfield@eslc.org or 410-422-1996 to discuss.

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