The State Forests of Maryland
Jack Perdue, Public Lands Management Supervisor
Larry Maxim, Savage River State Forest Manager
Francis Zumbrun, Green Ridge State Forest Manager
In the 1800’s, the volume of forest removals in large-scale timbering operations greatly exceeded forest growth. By the 1900’s, only 20 percent of mature forest cover still existed east of the Mississippi River. The public naturally feared a timber shortage because of this obvious over cutting of the nation’s forest resources. Large, uncontrolled forest fires followed after the cutting, further damaging the environment and polluting the streams. By the early 1900’s, the forests of Maryland consisted primarily of large cutover tracts and regenerating stands of seedlings and saplings. It was very unusual to see a large tree unless it was defective and left by the logging operations because it couldn’t “pay its way out of the woods”.
To help reverse this destructive and environmentally degrading trend, one hundred years ago in 1906, two brothers, John and Robert Garrett, made a generous donation of 1,917 acres of forest land in Garrett County to the State of Maryland. This tract of land is known today as Garrett State Forest, Maryland’s first state forest.
The forests administered in 2006, by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are approximately 195,000 acres: Potomac Garrett and Savage River in Garrett County, Green Ridge in Allegany County, Pocomoke in Worcester County, and Chesapeake Forest crossing five counties on the lower Eastern Shore.
Because of the existence of public lands and the responsible manner in which
these lands are administered in Maryland, more than 10 percent of Maryland’s
total land-base is protected from development by virtue of these holdings being
in the public trust. Scientific forest management is practiced on State Forest
lands, utilizing various harvesting techniques to create the early successional
habitats so beneficial for a wide variety of wildlife, and to provide broad
landscape diversity. At the same time, the forests continue to provide wood
products for a society whose demand for forest products keeps growing. The more
diverse the landscape is (forest types and age classes), the healthier the
ecosystem. Beyond timber values, public lands are also managed for old growth
(about half of the State Forests are managed for old growth objectives). These
special areas are in Wildlands, natural areas, and special management zones
where the perpetuation of natural forest processes is the featured and
encouraged desired forest condition.
Wildlife is thriving on State Forests largely due both to
protection as well as forest management activities. It is no longer uncommon to
see deer, wild turkey, black bear, and beaver; these animals were nearly extinct
from the Maryland landscape 100 years ago. The coyote, fisher and porcupine are
also returning to the western Maryland forests along with the black bear which
is already well established in Garrett and Allegany counties.
Forest management on public lands emphasizes the importance of
clean streams and waterways. Woody vegetation is retained along all riparian
areas, which protects thermal and vegetative characteristics of these areas and
thereby improves or maintains water quality.
Planning & Practices
DNR employs a forest zone system, which includes a three-step review process for
developing annual work plans that directs activities to appropriate locations.
One difference is the Chesapeake Forest Lands, where an adaptive and flexible
system for managing unique resources has been utilized. This system allows for
management of unique species or habitats occurring within a specific area while
allowing other forest management practices nearby.
State Forest management requires advanced planning and strict
adherence to environmental laws. Forest managers formulate work plans 18 months
before their implementation. An Interdisciplinary Team of natural resource
professionals reviews each item in the field a full year before implementation.
This team includes professionals in: water resources, wildlife, natural
heritage, forestry, fisheries, recreation, and resource planning. Then, an
advisory committee of citizen members reviews the proposed work plan. After
this, the DNR staff hosts public informational meetings to present the annual
plan of work for the upcoming fiscal year. Forest harvest sale contracts are
then reviewed for approval by Maryland Board of Public Works.
Operators on State Forests must have a Maryland forest product
operator’s license, be a certified Master Logger and have a sediment and erosion
control training certificate to prove they are knowledgeable in the use of
forestry Best Management Practices. The State Forest manager and staff carefully
monitor ongoing harvest operations to ensure full compliance with all
regulations and to ensure the sustainability of the resource.
Maryland law requires that the State's public forest resources be managed for a
diversity of purposes including wood fiber, recreation, wildlife, fish, and
water quality. The Department must work to balance and harmonize these many
interests that compete for the use of these State Forests while enhancing or
maintaining the forest’s ability to produce these benefits.
Independent auditors under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative
and the Forest Stewardship Council have certified the entire 58,000 acres of the
Chesapeake Forest Lands as sustainable. The State Forests and the remaining
Chesapeake Forest acreage will be moving toward achieving this special
recognition as outlined in a recent Executive Order from Governor Ehrlich.
Obtaining dual certification helps to assure Maryland citizens that their
forests are being cared for in a sustainable manner.
Income from State Forest sales goes to two places. A percentage of revenues,
determined by the level of DNR ownership on a per county basis, is given to
county government where the forest is located. In Garrett and Allegany Counties,
25 percent of income generated on State Forests is given to the county. In other
counties that portion is 15 percent. A small portion goes back to the State
forests for protection of the resource from insects and disease, maintenance of
roads and trails, and noncommercial silvicultural activities such as thinning to
promote forest health. The majority of these timber receipts goes into the State
Forest and Park Fund to, amongst other things, support State Park operations.
These revenues represent monies that otherwise would be paid by Maryland
citizens through taxes or user fees to support the activities of the Department.
From the four major State Forests (exclusive of the Chesapeake
Forest), for Fiscal Years 2001-2005, total revenues were $12.6 million (annual
average $2.5 million) involving a total of 4,400 acres (annual average 887) with
a total board foot volume of 32 million board feet (annual average 6.5 million
Our forests are a renewable resource that, with careful management, can provide
us with many benefits forever. Each year less than one percent of the total area
of the State Forests is touched by management activity. The forests put on new
growth each year, which is calculated through scientific inventory methods.
Harvest levels are carefully planned so as not to exceed annual growth. So we
can say with great confidence that Maryland's State Forests will be there for
the public to enjoy for many years to come. After each harvest, the area is
regenerated by allowing new seedlings enough light to become established and
increase vigor, or, if pine is the preferred species, planting is sometimes
required using trees bred from only the best Maryland stock, usually the next
spring. The wood harvested is used to make many products used in our homes
everyday. These forests are not lost; they are harvested, regenerated, nurtured
and protected to become the forests that will supply the functions, values and
products to be used by our children and our children's children. Forests are
Celebrate the Centennial
Before the Garrett Brothers’ donation in 1906 there were zero acres of state
forestland in Maryland. One hundred years later, as the Maryland Forest Service
celebrates its Centennial, nearly 200,000 acres of state forestland exists in
Maryland. This is an incredible achievement, especially considering that during
the same one hundred year period, the population of Maryland tripled in size to
about 5.6 million. The forest conservation leaders of the past proved that it is
possible to have economic growth while acquiring state forestland to benefit the
citizens of Maryland, thus significantly improving our collective quality of
The Maryland Forest Service’s adopted slogan “Celebrating Our
Past and Creating Our Future” invites us to celebrate our conservation
accomplishments together, and to create a future that guarantees a quality of
life for our children and future generations. Conservation leaders of the past
worked to restore the “devastated”, cut-over landscapes. One of the
environmental challenges of our time is answering the ever present question of
how to balance economic growth with conserving the forest land base at a time
when Maryland is developing at the rate of 8,600 acres a year. Maryland has a
100-year proven track record of Conservation leadership to celebrate; it is now
up to us create a future that will be celebrated 100 years from now during the