Watersheds and Forest Management

A stream running through a forest The Maryland Forest Watershed Management Program was created to answer the question: How can forests improve watershed health? Forests are the least polluting land use, a mainstay for producing clean water and viable wildlife habitat, and a major factor in urban quality of life. Expanding our forest area can reduce nutrients in our streams and the Chesapeake Bay, a fundamental step in restoration. Targeting forests to sensitive areas, such as streamsides, shorelines, seeps, steep slopes, erodible soils, or headwater areas, can prove particularly beneficial for water quality and riparian and aquatic habitat.

Other major forestry programs, stewardship, fire, urban, and health, are integrated into the watershed program. Stewardship efforts support expanding and maintaining forest in a sustainable condition. Fire efforts reduce risk of catastrophic wildfire that can harm water quality. Urban efforts expand trees in built environments where they play key roles in mitigating stormwater flows, reducing heat island effects, and reducing air pollution. Health programs minimize risk of wide-scale defoliation or tree dieback that can release surges of nutrients, degrading water quality in the short term. Forest utilization efforts include support for Best Management Practices, necessary and effective for avoiding watershed impacts from forestry operations.

Forest Conservation and Goal Setting

In Directive 06-1 signed by the Chesapeake Executive Council on September 22, 2006, The Governor of Maryland committed state resources to “conserving those forest lands in the Bay watershed where conservation to protect water quality is most needed.” A major part of this commitment is to use the best available tools to locate areas where retention and expansion of forests is most needed to protect water quality and to set a goal, framework, and milestones for protecting forested areas of critical importance to water quality (in acres or percentage of forested lands) while considering which of those are most vulnerable to development. 

Watershed program efforts currently include: