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DNR Still Accepting Public Input on Designation of New Wildlands

The Youghiogheny River Scenic Corridor is a candidate for Wildland designation in Garrett County

The Youghiogheny River Scenic Corridor is a candidate for Wildland designation in Garrett County

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is still accepting public input on the proposed creation of 10 new Wildlands and the expansion of 17 existing Wildlands (click here for the map) by email and postal mail through December 9. Wildlands are State-owned natural areas preserved for their wilderness character or sensitive natural resources.

Wildlands benefit the economy of local communities by attracting birdwatchers, photographers, backpackers and others who enjoy nature. Many Wildlands serve as home to rare and endangered species such as hellbenders and purple-fringed orchids. Other recreational pursuits like hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking and horseback riding, as well as research, are all permitted. Currently 29 areas of State-owned land in 15 counties are designated as Wildlands, totaling 43,779 acres, listed here.

DNR has acquired new properties that meet State Wildlands Preservation System criteria since the last designations 11 years ago. Many of the candidate regions contain rare or threatened plants and animals, and other environmentally sensitive characteristics. The department identified additional areas upon completing an Inventory of Old Growth Forests, and mapping high conservation forests and environmentally sensitive areas, on DNR-managed lands.

DNR has been seeking input on the 27 areas of State land that may be suitable for Wildland designation since October. Information and maps showing the location of the areas are available at Click here for a detailed listing of the candidate areas grouped by county.

Although the public meetings period has ended, citizens may still comment in one of two ways ─ by email to, or by mail to: Wildlands Comments; Attn: Rich Norling; Maryland Department of Natural Resources; 580 Taylor Ave., C4; Annapolis, MD 21401. The comment deadline is Saturday, December 9, 2013.

  • George

    An excellent proposal! Thanks to DNR staff who did the field work and all who contributed to this project. Wildlands is the most secure protection against the tide of development that is wiping out open space in our state.

  • I am writing on behalf of the Friends of Soldiers Delight (Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc.) regarding the expansion proposal for Maryland’s Wildlands.

    In general, while we enthusiastically support the creation and addition of the various proposed new Wildlands areas around the state, we are concerned about the extension of a Wildlands designation to some of the parcels that have been nominated for it within the Soldiers Delight NEA. We would like to see the areas that are currently leased as hayfields exempted from the Wildlands designation at this time, excepting only a section along Red Run to serve as a much-needed stream buffer. The previous Wildlands designation had an insufficient buffer for Red Run.

    We believe that the hayfields will be extremely difficult to restore to a natural state at this time without extremely expensive and time-consuming efforts because of an extremely large deer population and the influx of highly invasive non-native species. The deer population is currently in the ballpark of 80+ deer per square mile, which is far in excess of the 20 per square mile which the site can sustainably support, and which therefore precludes any effort at reforestation. Inadequate attempts at restoration in the hayfields will put nearby rare and endangered species habitats into jeopardy by fostering the spread of invasive species.

    Although the State has a managed hunt program which may have curbed further growth in the deer population, it has not reduced the numbers to a level which would allow a successful reforestation project. Unless the State is able to commit greater resources towards substantially reducing the deer population, which we believe is its responsibility as part of its stewardship obligation toward Soldiers Delight NEA, we do not wish to put the site at further risk by adding the hayfields to the Wildlands area.


    Laura Van Scoyoc
    President, Soldiers Delight Conservation Inc.