Planning and Management of Maryland's State Forests

Sustainable use of our State Forests, for the multiple benefits they provide, requires planned management in such a way that the needs of today are met without hurting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Maryland’s Commitment to Sustainable Forest Management

The Annotated code of Maryland, Natural Resources Article 5-102 mandates the Department of Natural Resources to consider a wide variety of issues and uses when pursuing a management strategy for State Forests. The Annotated Code of Maryland reads:

“Forests, streams, valleys, wetlands, parks, scenic, historic, and recreation areas of the state are basic assets. Their proper use, development, and preservation are necessary to protect and promote the health, safety, economy and general welfare of the people of the state. It is the policy of the state to encourage the economic development and the use of its natural resources for the improvement of the local economy, preservation of natural beauty, and promotion of the recreational and leisure interest throughout the state.”

To recognize further the importance of its State Forest System, the department established a corresponding management policy in the code of Maryland Regulations as follows:

“The state forests are managed to promote the coordinated uses of their varied resources and values for the benefit of all people, for all time. Water, wildlife, wood, natural beauty and opportunities for natural environmental recreation, wildlands experience, research demonstration areas, and outdoor education are major forest benefits.”

A statewide system of renewable resource planning ensures that benefits are realized by and resources are protected for future generations through the Annotated Code of Maryland, Natural Resources Article 5-214:

“The department shall develop a system for long-range renewable forest resource planning. The public and private forestland resources of Maryland, indicating, but not limited to, wood fiber, forest recreation, wildlife, fish, forest watershed, and wilderness potential, shall be examined and inventoried periodically. As part of the forest planning process, the department periodically shall develop, review, and revise a resource plan that should help to provide for a sustained yield of forest resource benefits for the citizens of Maryland. The forest resource plan shall be made available for public and legislative review and comment.”

Sustainable Forestry and Forest Certification.

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.

Forest Certification is a way to verify sustainable forest management. The international community through the Montréal process has agreed on the elements of sustainable forest management. Maryland will use the internationally recognized criteria of sustainable forest management in planning, implementing and monitoring uses of our State Forests.

A goal of the department is to become a national model of certified sustainable forestry. To meet this goal, each of our State Forests will seek a combined third party certification under both the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) standard and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard. It is the department's belief that an independent review and certification of our State Forest Management plans and practices will improve the management of the State Forest and build public confidence in the quality of the management. In 2003, Chesapeake Forest became the first State Forest to obtain dual certification under SFI and FSC.

Achieving meaningful results in sustainable forest management requires a long-term commitment by the department. Forests are complex and dynamic ecosystems; only better knowledge, experience, and understanding can lead to approaches that are more effective to forest assessment and management.

The decision by the department to apply the Montréal Process Criteria and Indicators reflects a recognition of their value and their utility for measuring process; ultimately, they will be meaningful only if we are committed to using them to make needed policy changes in response to trends in the indicators.