— We are lucky to live in a state where there are so many ways to connect with nature and enjoy Maryland’s great outdoors.
Some of us go birding or looking for frogs or butterflies, some hit the trails on foot or mountain bikes or ATVs, and some camp, fish or kayak. For many folks in our area, outdoor recreation occurs on public lands, such as state forests, wildlife management areas and state parks.
Within this system of public lands, the designation of wildlands is a unique and protective land management designation, reserved for those lands that remain in a relatively natural state, with little evidence of man’s impact.
The Nature Conservancy commends Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly for expanding the state’s wildlands designations with the expansion of 14 areas and the addition of nine new areas, totaling 21,887 additional acres, through the signing of House Bill 296.
O’Malley’s signature on the bill marks the first time in 11 years the General Assembly has expanded Maryland’s wildlands.
The new or expanded wildlands range across nine counties, including Allegany. In addition to providing recreational opportunities for Maryland citizens, these areas help preserve the forests and wetlands that filter harmful sediment and nutrients from our drinking water and the trees that sequester carbon dioxide.
Wildlands are protected in their current state in part so that future generations can enjoy the land in much the same way that we do now. Visitors can still hunt, fish, trap, hike, ride horses and conduct research.
In addition to helping provide clean drinking water, clean air and beautiful places to recreate, wildlands can also benefit the economy of a local community, such as Cumberland, by attracting birdwatchers, photographers, backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts who are seeking a wilderness experience.
Allegany County gained one new wildland, Dan’s Mountain, and the expansion of four others: Maple Run, Deep Run, Potomac Bends and Sideling Hill.
We hope Cumberland residents and legislators will join The Nature Conservancy in celebrating this extra level of protection for the places that we love to visit — protection that will continue helping provide us clean air and clean water for generations to come.
Donnelle Keech Allegany Forests project director The Nature Conservancy