The Maryland Wildlands Preservation System
What is a Wildland?
"Wildlands are limited areas of land or water which have retained their wilderness character, although not necessarily completely natural and undisturbed, or have rare or vanishing species of plant or animal life or similar features of interest worthy of preservation for use of present and future residents of the State. This may include unique ecological, geological, scenic, and contemplative recreational areas on State lands" (Natural Resources Article, §5-1201).
What is the State Wildlands Preservation System?
The Maryland Wildlands Preservation System is Maryland's counterpart to the federal Wilderness Preservation System, and consists of all those properties owned and managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources which are designated as State wildlands by the Maryland General Assembly.
How was the Wildland System established?
The Maryland Wildlands Act established the State Wildlands Preservation System in 1971. The first official wildland in Maryland, the Big Savage Wildland in Savage River State Forest, was officially designated by an act of the General Assembly in 1973.
What benefits does the State Wildlands Preservation System Provide?
Threatened and endangered species protection, watershed and water quality protection, wilderness research, preservation of unique ecological communities and primitive recreation are but a few of the benefits provided by designated wildlands.
How many wildlands are there in Maryland?
As of this date, 29 separate wildlands have been designated on over 43,770 acres in State Parks, State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas.
What is the difference between a wildland and a Natural Environment Area?
A Natural Environment Area is a unit of the State Park system which is "an area, generally 1000 acres or more of significant natural attraction or unique geological feature. Wildlands may only be established or removed by an act of the General Assembly. Hunting, fishing and trapping may be allowed to continue on a wildland if those activities were permitted prior to designation. Management activities within a wildland are directed at protecting or enhancing the wilderness characteristics of the area.
Where are the existing wildlands?
The existing wildlands are spread throughout the State (see below), with six each in Baltimore and Garrett counties, four in Allegany county, two each in Worcester and Montgomery counties, and one in each of the following counties: Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Howard, Prince George's, St. Mary's, Somerset and Washington.
How does an area become a wildland?
A wildland can only be designated by an act of the General Assembly. The Department of Natural Resources cannot, by itself, designate a wildland.
Is the public permitted access to a wildland?
Yes. As with all units of the DNR lands system, the Department may restrict access to certain areas if a resource is threatened, or for public safety reasons.
Is the public allowed to hunt, fish and/or trap within a wildland?
Hunting, fishing and trapping are permitted subject to existing laws, regulations, and administrative policies. In other words if an area was open to hunting prior to wildland designation, it will continue to be available for hunting.
Does the wildland designation supersede the DNR land designation for the area?
No. The wildland designation is supplemental to the underlying land unit designation. If a wildland is designated within a State Park, the area remains a State Park. The wildland designation may not "interfere with either the purpose for which State forests are established or modify the statutory authority under which units of the State Park system are created and continued" (§5-1210).
What activities are permitted in a wildland?
In general, those activities which are consistent with the wilderness character of the area; including hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, horseback riding, nature interpretation, bird watching, research, and appreciation of natural processes.
What activities are prohibited in a wildland?
In general, those activities which are inconsistent with sustaining a wilderness environment or which leave a lasting imprint of human activity; including the use of motorized vehicles and mechanized equipment, the harvesting of timber, the construction of new roads, buildings, and other structures, manipulation of vegetation for wildlife management or other purposes and the introduction of non-indigenous species.
These and other activities which are restricted or prohibited are described further in the Wildland regulations contained in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR 08.01.02.01-05).
How are fire, insects and disease handled within a wildland?
Wildfires will be suppressed. Necessary measures to control insects and diseases, including chemical treatment, are left to the discretion of the managing unit.
Can a wildland be undesignated? How?
Yes. Since a wildland can only be created by an act of the General Assembly, it would require a subsequent act to repeal a wildland designation.
For more information on the Maryland Wildlands Preservation System, contact Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Lands Acquisition and Planning, Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, (410) 260-8412.
- Stewardship Staff Contacts
- Real Property
- Real Property Contacts
- Real Estate Agreements - Responsibilities
- Real Estate Agreements - Conveyances
- Real Estate Agreements - Leases
- Resident Curatorship Program
- Project Review
- Long Term Land Use Planning
- About Land Unit Types
- Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plan
- Planning Publications
- Scenic and Wild Rivers Planning
- The Maryland Wildlands Preservation System
- The Province Properties
- The Maryland Trails Clearinghouse & Directory
- Stewardship Home Page