Chesapeake Forests


The Chesapeake Forest Lands are most of the former land holdings of the Chesapeake Forest Products Company, comprised of 238 parcels totaling more than 58,000 acres in five lower Eastern Shore counties. These lands make up 12 percent of the productive forests in the region, which in the past produced 15-20 percent of the region's annual timber harvest. In 1999, the State purchased 29,000 acres and The Conservation Fund, on behalf of the Richard King Mellon Foundation purchased 29,000 acres.


In December of 2000, The Conservation Fund transferred the deeds on their 29,000 acres to the State with a state-of-the-art sustainable forest management plan, which the State has agreed to implement as a condition of the gift. This gift and the management plan are intended to be a national model of public/private partnership, sustainable forestry and ecosystem management on public lands.


Since the date of the original land acquisition Chesapeake Forest has increased in size to 67,722 acres. This has occurred through the inclusion of several new forested tracts, two of which are existing DNR properties Wicomico Demonstration Forest in Wicomico County and Seth Demonstration Forest in Talbot County. Other sites added to the Forest are several new land purchases, a listing of these tracts can be found in Appendix “K” of the Sustainable Forest Management Plan.


In the summer of 2003, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources conducted a resource inventory of the entire 58,000 acre forest, collecting information on everything from timber volumes and growth rates to sensitive species information. In addition, the Department took the Sustainable Management Plan that covered the gifted half of the property and has redeveloped this plan to cover the entire forest. The work on the new plan began back in the spring of 2002 with the implementation of a public planning process and was completed in July 2007 with a final review of the draft plan by the Chesapeake Forest citizen advisory committee. During the public planning process an assessment of all the resources on the property was conducted and restoration opportunities were identified. Since the official adoption of the Sustainable Plan in 2007, several revisions have occurred, the most recent in November of 2013. These revisions are mostly based on findings from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) annual audits and from the addition of new acreage to the Forest. The 2013 Sustainable Forest Management Plan - Public Summary is available for review on this website; in addition to the current version of the Sustainable Plan.


Why did the State and The Conservation Fund buy these lands?
To protect Maryland's natural resources

Including the more than 11,000 acres of wetlands, and more than 53,000 acres of forests, which are important habitat for interior forest dwelling birds and threatened and endangered species, and the largest collection of properties for upland game on the Eastern Shore.


To maintain the rural character, economy and the heritage of the region

  • Supporting the Eastern Shore's forest products industry, the second largest industry on the Eastern Shore, which adds $349 million to the State's economy and employs more than 2,100 people.
  • Protecting the natural resource heritage of the Eastern Shore by keeping working forests from being fragmented by development.
  • Supporting local counties through revenue sharing.
  • Maintaining the contribution of hunting and fishing to the rural economy.


To maintain and enhance water quality and living resources

By protecting shoreline on five river systems and are part of 23 watersheds, offering opportunities for watershed improvements, wetland creation, increasing streamside buffers and restoration of native plant communities.


To expand opportunities for public access

By making appropriate new areas available for outdoor recreation including resource-based activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, birding and canoeing.


What is sustainable forestry?
Sustainable forestry is a broad term for management techniques that respect the full range of environmental, social, and economic values of the forest, and seek to meet today's needs without losing any of those values. Sustainable forests maintain all components (trees, shrubs, flowers, birds, fish, wildlife, etc.) as well as ecological processes (nutrient recycling, water and air purification, ground water recharge, etc.) so they can remain healthy and vibrant into the future. A basic part of sustainable forestry is adaptive management, which means that forest managers watch and monitor the forest carefully so that, if future conditions change and the forest shows signs of stress or decline, new management actions can help restore sustainable conditions.


In June of 2004, the 29,000 acres on the gifted half of Chesapeake Forest Lands was the first piece of public property in the State of Maryland to be dual certified as a Sustainable Forest under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The certification process involved a very detailed review of the entire project by a third party auditor. In the spring of 2005 dual certification under both (SFI) and (FSC) was achieved for the entire 59,000 acre Chesapeake Forest. This certification was modified during the annual audit in March 2012 to include additional acreage which now totals 67,722 acres. In order to be granted certification status, Chesapeake Forest Lands had to meet specific standards of both organizations. Detailed information about each organization (SFI) and (FSC) can be obtained from their respective websites.


Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is allowed on maintained forest trails and roads designed to accommodate recreational use. Many of the Public Use tracts have parking areas that can accommodate horse trailers.


Where are the Chesapeake Forest Lands located?


Summary of Chesapeake Forest Acreage by County
Talbot 122
Caroline 1,300
Dorchester 14,058
Somerset 17,229
Wicomico 17,389
Worcester 17,674
Total Acres 67,722

Will the public be involved in decisions regarding the future use and management of Chesapeake Forest Lands?
The Department will involve all individuals and groups interested in the use and management of the land. A variety of methods will be used to receive public input including public meetings, group meetings, and the solicitation of verbal and written comments. The public's comments will be considered as plans are developed for resource management, watershed enhancement, facility development or public use. If you or your group would like to be involved in the planning process, please write to Steven W. Koehn, Director / State Forester, Tawes State Office Building E-1, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401, or email him: skoehn@dnr.state.md.us


How will income from the lands be used?
Revenue generated from the Chesapeake Forest Lands will pay for management, restoration and enhancement of these lands.


Interested in the Public Hunting or the Hunting lease Program?
After a lengthy public involvement process, DNR determined that half of Chesapeake Forest Lands would be opened to public hunting and half would remain in the leased Hunt Club Program, see web links to the public hunting areas and for information on Leased Club Hunting. . If you would like to receive occasional emails regarding information specific to Chesapeake Forest hunting news and issues, click here. Questions regarding land management and hunting on Chesapeake Forest Lands should be directed to Denise Snyder, at (410) 632-3732, dsnyder@dnr.state.md.us.

What do I do if there are problems or suspicious activities on the leased lands?
Suspected criminal activity (trespassing, poaching, etc.) should be reported to the Natural Resources Police, at Hillsborough by calling 410-758-2890 (for Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties) or Salisbury by calling 410-548-7070 (for Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties).