The 2020 Maryland Forest Action Plan

Cover of the 2020 State Forest Action Plan

The Maryland Forest Action Plan was produced as part of the national strategy to “redesign” how federal and state cooperative assistance programs address America’s forest lands. Conceived in 2007, this approach within the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry (S&PF) improves the ability to identify the greatest threats to forest sustainability, target program delivery and accomplish meaningful on-the-ground changes in high priority areas. The 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills required states to develop the plans, pushing strategic action in spending public resources.

The Farm Bill identified three national priorities from the Redesign Process and amended Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act.:

  • Conserve and manage working forest landscapes for multiple values and uses
  • Protect forests from threats
  • Enhance public benefits from trees and forests

The 2020 Maryland Forest Action Plan is made up of two parts:

  • an assessment of forest conditions in the state
  • a strategy that identifies major goals and actions to reach them.

It also includes, by referencing the planning document for the Forest Legacy Program, a national land conservation program for working forests; the Assessment of Need is a state-specific plan that guides applications for the federal Forest Legacy Program, a third section of the Forest Action Plan.

State Forest Assessment


To ensure that federal and state resources are being focused on high priority areas with the greatest opportunity to achieve meaningful outcomes, each state, territory or island has worked collaboratively with the USFS and other key partners to develop a comprehensive state forest resource assessment. These assessments provide a comprehensive analysis of the forest-related conditions, trends and opportunities in each state.

Assessments are slated to be reviewed on a five year cycle and updated on a 10 year cycle . The assessments encompass existing planning requirements for USFS State and Private Forestry funding, moving assessment and planning tasks to be more integrated.

Maryland’s forest resource assessment includes:

  • Describes forest conditions on all ownerships in the state
  • Identifies forest-related benefits and services
  • Highlights issues and trends of concern as well as opportunities for positive action
  • Delineates high priority forest landscapes to be addressed
  • Outlines broad strategies for addressing the national priorities along with critical issues and landscapes identified through the assessment

Maryland’s Forest Assessment also identifies critical information gaps so that this information can be acquired as opportunities arise and to better coordinate with other natural resource plans. The assessment addresses all public and private ownerships in Maryland, spans the urban to rural continuum, and is guided by the following Seven Criteria of Forest Sustainability established through the Montreal Process - the internationally agreed upon criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests.

Criterion 1: Conservation of biological diversity
Criterion 2: Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems
Criterion 3: Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality
Criterion 4: Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
Criterion 5: Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
Criterion 6: Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to meet the needs of societies
Criterion 7: Legal, institutional, and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management

Forest Strategy


With the background provided by the State Forest Assessment, the Maryland DNR Forest Service worked collaboratively with partners and stakeholders to develop a Forest Action Plan Strategy. This described Maryland’s desired actions for forestry issues, specific to current forest conditions, laws, programs, political subdivisions, and stakeholders. The Action Plan will be used as a basis for Maryland to propose needed investments of state and federal dollars, in combination with other available income streams. The first goal of the 2020 Maryland Forest Action Plan Strategy is to “Grow forests, habitats, markets, and jobs.” This is reinforced and refined by an additional four goals to maximize public benefits over the long term: Manage forest health and fire, provide clean water, create healthy, livable communities, and respond to climate change. The 2020 strategy remains based on the seven principles of sustainable forestry as defined in the international Montreal Process: biodiversity, forest productivity, ecosystem health, soil and water health, global carbon, socio-economic support, and legal/institutional frameworks.

Maryland Forest Action Plan Strategy Goals:

  • Grow Forests, Habitats, Markets, and Jobs
  • Manage Forest Health and Fire
  • Provide Clean Water
  • Create Healthy, Livable Communities
  • Respond to Climate Change