HLT Completes Land Conservation Prioritization Map for Harford

HLT’s 2017—2022 Strategic Plan called for us to strategically pursue land preservation projects that meet our land preservation criteria. Of course, we cannot, and should not, protect “everything.” It is paramount that our land preservation efforts are sharply focused on the most critical and vulnerable resources to ensure our efforts have the greatest positive impact.

Thanks to a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative, a project of the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network and the Land Trust Alliance, we were able to try something new further this goal. In late 2017, HLT engaged the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center to develop a Harford County strategic land preservation prioritization map based on HLT’s land preservation criteria.

Over many months, HLT staff worked with the Conservancy to identify data sets and assign weights that best reflected HLT’s criteria and evaluation process for prospective land preservation projects.

Each parcel larger than five acres in Harford County was assessed against over 20 datasets. The highest priority was assigned to three overarching criteria:

  • ·Wildlife and biodiversity (e.g., ecologically sensitive areas, habitat)
  • ·Productive farmland (e.g., soil quality)
  • ·Water quality (e.g., Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, marshland and streams, steep slopes, floodplains, green infrastructure)

Land prioritization map

HLT also factored in property size and impervious surface cover. Lastly, we assessed proximity to other preserved land and scenic and historic landmarks (e.g., Maryland Scenic Byways, historic landmarks and individual sites, scenic trails).

Each parcel was assigned a score, resulting in the colors shown on the map. Blue parcels are those that are currently being taxed based on an agricultural or residential use. Orange parcels are those that are currently being taxed based on a commercial, industrial, or other use.

Through clickable web viewers, HLT staff can query parcels and view land characteristics and tax information from a desktop or mobile device.

The map is the result of many hours of research, discussion, meetings, analysis, and thought. It is a living document and should not be viewed as a static plan.

The map is a high-level overview designed to help guide our land protection activities. It is impossible to truly assess the values of an individual piece of land in this manner; but, it is a useful starting point nonetheless. HLT will continue to evaluate opportunities with on-the-ground site visits and landowner consultations. 

Thank you to the HLT Lands Committee (Dan Krug, Sam Martin, Charles Day, Glenn Dudderrar, and H. Turney McKnight) for their thoughtful participation. A special thanks to Bill Amoss, of Harford County Planning & Zoning his time and expertise.