DNR Wildlands Proposal Generates Controversy

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing the creation or expansion of new wildland areas in nine counties and has held a series of public hearings on the issue.  Wildlands are State-owned lands that have retained their wilderness character and contain important ecological features.  Lands designated as wildlands may only be used for passive recreational purposes, such as hiking, fishing, hunting, bird watching, or horseback riding.

A November 3 Baltimore Sun B’More Green blog post reports that while the proposal is supported by conservationists, it has also generated questions and some controversy:

If all [proposed wildlands] get legislative approval, the state’s nearly 44,000-acre wildlands  system would be expanded by more than half. The last additions were made in  2002.  …

“I have some questions — I know my constituents up here have a lot of  questions,” said state Sen. George Edwards, a Republican who represents Allegany  and Garrett counties, where six of the 10 new wildlands would be created.  …

On the Eastern Shore, Crisfield Mayor Percy J.  Purnell Jr. objects to turning nearby Janes Island State Park into a wildland,  saying that “the state’s got enough wilderness.” He’d like to build facilities  on the marshy Chesapeake Bay island to draw tourists there, in hopes it might  help revive his town, which was devastated last year by superstorm Sandy.

The post also notes certain mountain-biking organizations are generally opposed to the expansion and that DNR representatives have pledged to work with stakeholders that raise concerns.