September 12, 2018

Maryland Designates Harriet Tubman Rural Legacy Area

DORCHESTER COUNTY, MD—The Conservation Fund applauds the State of Maryland on the creation of the Harriet Tubman Rural Legacy Area (HTRLA). Funded through Maryland’s innovative Program Open Space, the 28,300-acre rural legacy area will protect and conserve the natural, cultural and historic landscape of Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy. Working in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Dorchester County, The Conservation Fund will lead acquisition efforts to protect key historical sites and the landscape that tell the story of the celebrated abolitionist’s work facilitating the Underground Railroad.

“By protecting this landscape, we will ensure that the story of Harriet Tubman’s heroic struggle can be told to a worldwide audience,” said Pat Noonan, Chairman Emeritus of The Conservation Fund. “Thank you to the Hogan Administration for funding Program Open Space. We simply could not protect significant landscapes like the Harriet Tubman Rural Legacy Area without the Program.”

The new Harriet Tubman Rural Legacy Area serves as one of the last remaining examples of a 19th century agrarian landscape—a setting familiar to Harriet Tubman while she was alive. Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, in the early 1820s, and in 1849 escaped to Philadelphia. After escaping, she began traveling back and forth from Maryland to rescue other enslaved people via the Underground Railroad.

“The Rural Legacy Program works to conserve and maintain the rural character and countryside of our state now and for future generations,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The influx of funding from the Hogan administration—the fifth most in the program’s 20-year history—will protect our state’s precious resources in perpetuity while providing for local resource-based industries, be it farming or forestry. By establishing new areas and expanding others we are benefiting our rural economy as well as our environment.”

The Rural Legacy Area encompasses the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, which was opened in 2017 as an educational center and received 100,000 visitors in its first year of operation. The newly designated rural legacy area will bolster visitation to this area.

The Conservation Fund, as the sponsor of the area, will provide conservation, legal and regulatory expertise to help willing landowners place conservation easements on properties and acquire strategic locations of cultural and historical importance. These efforts will be possible with funding from Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be carrying out our conservation mission in the name of a great American hero, Harriet Tubman,” said Bill Crouch, Maryland State Director for The Conservation Fund. “This Rural Legacy Area will bolster visitation to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, adding economic activity while educating and inspiring Americans about Harriet Tubman’s incredible life. We are thankful to have Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program and the Administration’s leadership in this historic effort.”

The Rural Legacy Area is adjacent to the 28,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area home to rich tidal marshes, freshwater ponds and mixed woodlands. The Conservation Fund has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service for over a decade to add nearly 8,000 acres to Blackwater NWR, including donating 480 acres to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, which overlaps with the refuge land. Blackwater NWR is home to a variety of birds—including redhead ducks, mallards, northern pintails and wood ducks—and the adjacent Rural Legacy Area will provide more contiguous habitat for these birds and the other wildlife in the region.

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program funds the conservation of large tracts of land that are important culturally, historically, environmentally or economically. The program relies on the knowledge of local governments and land trusts – entities that are most familiar with the land – to advise how to best conserve each property. Every county in Maryland is home to at least one Rural Legacy Area, and so far, over 95,000 acres have been conserved through the program.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect 8 million acres of land, including more than 166,000 acres in Maryland.

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |