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Savage River State Forest - Mt. Aetna Tract
Hunting Safety Zone Update
December 1, 2006
Visitors to the Mt. Aetna tract on Savage River State Forest will notice that the Department of Natural Resources-Forest Service has implemented an additional hunting safety zone to ensure the public’s safety and prevent potential user conflicts. Please note the following:
Thank you for your cooperation.
- Hunting and carrying of loaded weapons is prohibited in the safety zone (see map below), however, hunters may carry unloaded weapons in the safety zone. Please note that the signs posted in the safety zone do not correctly reflect this policy.
- The safety zone covers 193 acres on the tract including the ‘green trail’; the remainder of the tract continues to be open for public hunting.
- Public hunting is also allowed on an additional 53,000 acres of Savage River State Forest, as well as on other State Forest and Wildlife Management lands.
- This safety zone has been established on a provisional basis. The Department is currently evaluating whether this safety zone is warranted on a permanent basis and expects to make a formal safety policy decision in early 2007.
Background Information on the Enhanced Hunting Safety Zone
- In January 2006, DNR received a written complaint expressing concerns for visitor safety on Mt. Aetna tract and requested the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to take appropriate action to ensure the public’s safety. The Mt. Aetna tract surrounds the Savage River Lodge, a commercial business frequented by outdoor recreation enthusiasts in the middle of an extremely popular hunting area.
- Upon review of the complaints, DNR civilian and law enforcement staff determined the public safety concerns had merit, enough so that the agency temporarily expanded the safety zone to include the entrance road and the Green Trail. (Safety zones are normally 150 yards around occupied dwellings). DNR expanded the safety zone to minimize the likelihood that a citizen could be accidentally hurt. The Department took this action pursuant to COMAR 08.07.01.03 B, which gives the Department authority to regulate specific areas of hunting.
- Once the decision was made, new safety zones signs were posted in August in time for the busy fall hunting season. Unfortunately, however in its quest to act urgently, the agency did not conduct the extensive public outreach efforts it prefers to conduct under such circumstances. Complicating matters further, the signs that were posted incorrectly stated that all weapons are prohibited from the safety zone, when, in fact only loaded weapons are prohibited.
- DNR officials have since communicated to the local hunters the safety concerns that prompted placement of the new safety zone signs, and advised that the safety zone was a provisional measure instituted to alleviate these concerns. An initial meeting was held with concerned hunters in October to better understand their concerns and questions, and a second meeting was held in November to provide answers and clarifications to those issues. The Izaak Walton League of America and the Garrett County of Chamber of Commerce have expressed their support of the current expanded safety zone.
- DNR has also advised the local hunters that the continued implementation of the new safety zone would be evaluated over the remainder of 2006 and early 2007, and committed to a follow-up meeting in February 2007 to further discuss the safety concerns on the tract. The Department expects to make a formal safety policy decision in early 2007 once meetings have been held with all interested parties.
December 1, 2006
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 18,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov