Written by: Jamal Childs

On May 15th, 2024, Governor Moore announced that the state has achieved a significant milestone in its conservation efforts, meeting its ambitious “30 by 30” goal ahead of schedule. This landmark achievement underscores the state’s commitment to preserving its rich cultural, historical, ecological and agricultural heritage. The Maryland the Beautiful Act of 2023 set forth the ambitious goal of conserving 30% of the state’s land by 2030 and 40% by 2040. According to the MD DNR, the most recent update shows 1,766,958 acres have been protected of the 5,849,431 acres in the watershed jurisdiction of Maryland (30.21% protected). For more on conservation across the entire state, see the Maryland Protected Lands Dashboard.

The state’s success in meeting this goal highlights its leadership in environmental conservation and sets a precedent for other states to follow. Maryland’s “30 by 30” goal is consistent with President Biden’s executive order aiming to conserve at least 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. Additionally, the land conserved in Maryland contributes to one of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement’s goals of protecting an additional two million acres of land throughout the watershed by 2025, reinforcing the state’s regional impact.

In the Governor Wes Moore press release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz said “Maryland has long been a leader in land conservation. Meeting the ‘30 by 30’ goal is a great example of what we can accomplish by working in close partnership across all levels of government as well as with the nonprofit and private sectors. This statewide effort is protecting working farms, forests, and ecological resources, while also providing critical public access to open space throughout the state.” Several state conservation programs and operations have been instrumental in this achievement, including Program Open Space, Rural Legacy Program, Maryland Environmental Trust, and Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. These programs have been supported by strong partnerships with local governments, nonprofit land trusts, and willing landowners throughout Maryland. Additionally, collaboration with federal agency partners has been crucial in securing grant funding and advancing large landscape protection initiatives.

Patapsco Valley State Park in Central Maryland

Governor Wes Moore emphasized the importance of land conservation for Maryland’s future. “From the forests of Mountain Maryland to the coastal plains of the Eastern Shore, Maryland’s natural beauty must be protected. Land conservation isn’t optional—it’s a prerequisite for success,” said Gov. Moore. “By moving in partnership, we are meeting our goals ahead of schedule. But we know there’s more left to do. I will work closely with state and local leaders to find as many opportunities as we can to add to the state’s growing portfolio of public and protected lands, so we can reach our 40% conservation goal by 2040.”

Partners for Open Space Chair Owen Bailey said, “Land conservation is about working together to ensure a future of local foods, healthy ecosystems, vibrant biodiversity, clean water, carbon sequestration, connected communities, great spaces for mental and physical well-being and more. Reaching this 30% milestone speaks volumes as to the effectiveness of Maryland’s conservation community, but reaching 40% by 2040 will require an even deeper commitment from our state’s invaluable conservation partners.”

The impact of Maryland’s conservation efforts is profound. By protecting working farms, forests, and ecological resources, the state is not only preserving its natural beauty but also ensuring the sustainability of its agricultural and ecological systems. Moreover, these efforts provide the public with critical access to open spaces, enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

Great Falls National Park in Montgomery County, Md

The success of Maryland’s conservation programs can be seen in various projects across the state, such as Program Open Space, which has funded the acquisition of thousands of acres for parks and recreational areas. The Rural Legacy Program has been vital in preserving rural landscapes and agricultural lands, preventing development sprawl. The Maryland Environmental Trust has worked with private landowners to place conservation easements on properties, ensuring their protection in perpetuity. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation has safeguarded farmland, ensuring that agriculture remains a viable industry in the state.

Other Chesapeake Bay Watershed States:
According to 2022 acreage estimates reported by the Chesapeake Bay Program in May 2023, the percentages of protected lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for other watershed states are:

  • Delaware: 27.8%
  • District of Columbia: 22%
  • New York: 8.3%
  • Pennsylvania: 25.5%
  • Virginia: 21.0%
  • West Virginia: 16.4%

Looking ahead, Maryland’s commitment to conservation remains steadfast. The focus now shifts to the future, with the next target set at conserving 40% of its land by 2040. This ongoing dedication promises to safeguard Maryland’s natural heritage for generations to come. Governor Moore’s administration is set to build on this momentum, leveraging partnerships and innovative strategies to expand the state’s protected lands.

Gov. Wes Moore, Treasurer Dereck E. Davis, DNR Sec. Josh Kurtz, and leaders of the Partners for Open Space pose for a picture after celebrating Maryland meeting the 30 percent land conservation goal at the Board of Public Works meeting on May 15.

Maryland’s success serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved through dedicated conservation efforts and collaborative partnerships. The state’s achievements not only benefit the environment but also enrich the lives of its people, making Maryland a true leader in land conservation. As Maryland continues to lead by example, the rest of the nation can look to its success as a model for balancing development with the conservation of natural and agricultural lands. By achieving the “30 by 30” goal ahead of schedule, Maryland has shown that with commitment, collaboration, and strategic action, ambitious conservation goals are within reach. This accomplishment marks a significant step forward in the ongoing effort to protect our planet for future generations.
For more information, see Governor Moore’s announcement.

Image credit:

  1. Ben Alexandro
  2. Chesapeake Bay Program
  3. Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
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Support for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is provided by:
National Park Service Chesapeake
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
USDA Forest Service
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is co-convened by: