Land Acquisition and Planning

Real Property
About Land Unit Types

The department’s land units are designated according to their significance, resource management practices and recreational focus, or by legislation enacted by the Maryland General Assembly.

Land Unit Types

  • State Parks (SP)
  • Natural Environment Areas (NEA)
  • Natural Resource Management Areas (NRMA)
  • State Forests (SF)
  • Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)
  • Fish Management Areas (FMA)
  • Heritage Conservation Fund Sites
  • Click to view Department of Natural Resources Current Acreage Report

    Definitions of Land Unit Types

    For reference in this document, the different DNR land unit designations or types are briefly discussed below:

    • A State Park (SP) is operated primarily for outdoor recreation purposes and open space conservation. The Maryland Park Service (MPS) is the managing entity for designated parks.

      There are several different types of parks administered by the MPS:

      • Multiple-Use Parks are suitable for intensive recreational development and use, and development may include roads, parking, picnic areas, camping areas, and boat launching facilities. Examples of Multiple Use Parks include: Greenbrier State Park, Gunpowder Falls State Park, and Rocky Gap State Park.
      • General Recreation Parks accommodate light to medium recreational development and use on a smaller scale than Multiple Use Parks. Big Run, Calvert Cliffs, and Herrington Manor are classified as General Recreation Parks.
      • Waterfront Parks have a waterfront on the ocean, bay, or a lake as its principal attraction. Development often is as intensive as Multi-Use Parks. Assateague, Deep Creek Lake, and Janes Island are Waterfront Parks.
      • Historic or Scenic Parks are recognized for its historic significance or scenic interest. Several Historic or Scenic Parks include the Casselman Bridge, Fort Frederick, and Gathland.

    • A State Forest (SF) is managed for multiple purposes, including water quality protection, wildlife enhancement, timber, scenic or natural beauty and low-intensity recreation. The Maryland Forest Service manages most of the state’s designated forests, including Savage River State Forest, Pocomoke River State Forest, Potomac State Forest, Garrett State Forest and Green Ridge State Forest.

    • A Natural Resource Management Area (NRMA) is managed by the MPS for the optimal use of the resources on the site, including wildlife management and agriculture. NRMAs do not accommodate intensive recreational uses, and they are typically used for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and water access. The Monocacy in Frederick County and Wye Island in Queen Anne’s County are examples of NRMAs.

    • A Natural Environment Area (NEA), also managed by the Maryland Park Service, is generally 1,000 acres or more, and is an area that has significant or unique geological or ecological resources – development is generally confined to trails, interpretive facilities and limited support facilities. The Severn Run NEA and Mattawoman NEA, both located in Southern Maryland, are some of the larger NEAs found in the State.

    • A Wildlife Management Area (WMA), administered by the Wildlife and Heritage Service, focuses on wildlife management activities and low intensity wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and wildlife observation. Many WMAs were purchased with federal funds that restrict intensive development, and prohibit or limit certain types of outdoor recreational activities and uses. Over 40 WMAs are located throughout the State, from the 15 acre Cheltenham to Fishing Bay, which is over 28,500 acres.

    • A Fish Management Area (FMA), under the jurisdiction of the Fisheries Service, varies from a highly specialized fish propagation facility to a public fishing pond.

    • Other Classifications

      • A State Wildland is a special designation that “overlays” all or part of a state park, forest, wildlife management area or other DNR land unit. There are over 43,773 acres of Wildlands in the State that are recognized by the Maryland General Assembly as containing wilderness characteristics and otherwise outstanding and unique natural features worthy of preservation in a natural state. Maryland’s Wildlands are equivalent to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
      • A Heritage Conservation Fund Sites is not an official land unit designation, but includes properties that have been acquired specifically for the protection of identified endangered plant or animal species and significant habitats.
      • An Unclassified Land Unit is a property that often is under a special management or partnership arrangement with another government or nonprofit entity.
      • An Undesignated Land Unit usually includes newly acquired properties that are undergoing or have yet to undergo a public involvement and planning process – the recommendations in a completed Land Unit Plan determine the designation(s) of a land unit. Chesapeake Forest (58,257 acres) and Chapmans Forest (2,225 acres), are presently Undesignated, and plans are underway for both properties.

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