Maryland officials in December approved the purchase of more than 25,000 acres, the second-largest land preservation effort in the state’s history.

The $15.4 million deal approved by the Board of Public Works, was hailed by environmentalists as a historic opportunity to protect wetlands, forests and jobs across seven counties on the Eastern Shore and in southern Maryland.

The 25,000-acre purchase was negotiated by The Conservation Fund, a national environmental group, with the owner of the property, York, PA-based Glatfelter Corp. To cover the purchase, the state will use $12 million in bonds and $3.4 million in cash from Program Open Space funds.

The deal initially called for about $8 million in cash, but The Conservation Fund increased its contribution to address concerns posed by board members and key lawmakers involved in formulating the state budget.

Conservation easements will be placed on the land, ensuring that it never be developed, although it can be used for timbering. After the easements are in place, 21,766 acres will be purchased by the Forestland Group of Chapel Hill, N.C. The Conservation Fund will purchase the remaining land for $6.3 million and give it to the state when federal grants or state funding are available.

The Glatfelter properties are estimated to produce 8 percent of the wood fiber output on the Eastern Shore, where logging is the second largest industry. State environmental officials say most of the land is of the highest ecological value, with 31 miles of rivers and streams and 26 major watersheds.