A 468-acre pocket of forest and fields in southern Wicomico County, the original Johnson WMA was purchased by the state in 1926, when the United States was first recognizing the growing need to conserve natural resources. Originally called Johnson Schoolhouse Game Refuge, its 153 acres were used to raise game animals for release into the wild. In 2017, additional parcels of land purchased from ACE Timberlands LLC (totaling 315 acres), were added to Johnson WMA. These newly acquired parcels had been part of a large commercial timber landholding for many years prior to State purchase. Today, Johnson WMA is a favorite spot for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy eastern Maryland's bountiful wildlife. Johnson WMA is also the location of the Natural Resource Police lower shore eastern regional office.
Forest dependent wildlife, including many species of colorful songbirds, dwell at Johnson WMA. Yellow-throated vireos and black-and-white warblers use the mature oak forests for nesting and finding insects to eat. Downy and hairy woodpeckers feed on the insects found in dead or dying trees and red-eyed vireos fill the springtime forest with their lilting song, similar to that of the American robin. The lonesome sound of the whip-poor-will can sometimes be heard across the open fields and forest edges. Bird lovers will find more than a day's worth of bird variety, especially during migration periods in the spring and fall.
Hunters come to Johnson WMA for the white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, woodcock, wild turkeys and cottontail rabbits which roam the forests and fields. Deer hunting is only allowed using archery equipment only. Hikers will find many unmarked trails for bird-watching, nature photography or just a daytime get-away.
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This area is a part of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources public land system and is managed by the Wildlife and Heritage Service. The primary mission of the WMA system is to conserve and enhance wildlife populations and their respective habitats as well as to provide public recreational use of the State’s wildlife resources.
Eighty-five percent of the funding for Maryland's state wildlife programs comes from hunting license fees and a federal excise tax on sport hunting devices and ammunition. The federal aid funds are derived from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (or Pittman-Robertson) Fund, which sportsmen and women have been contributing to since 1937. Each state receives a share of the funds, which is administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; these funds are used for wildlife conservation and hunter education programs, including the management of the WMA system.
Other sources of funds for land acquisition include Program Open Space Funding for Maryland's State and local parks and conservation areas, provided through The Department of Natural Resources' Program Open Space. Established in 1969, Program Open Space symbolizes Maryland's long-term commitment to conserving natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.
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