Maryland, often referred to as "America in miniature", is unique in its place on the ecological landscape. Its latitude places it at the southern end of northeastern ecosystems and the northern end of southeastern ecosystems. The diverse landscape of Maryland includes a wide range of natural communities, physiographic provinces and natural features. From the barrier islands, cypress swamps, and Delmarva bays of the Eastern Shore to the mountain boreal bogs, caves, and limestone woods of the Appalachian Plateau, our state encompasses a tremendous diversity of habitats that support an impressive variety of species.
Rich in flora and fauna, Maryland harbors some species with extremely limited ranges. For example, the federally endangered dwarf wedge mussel and Delmarva fox squirrel find refuge within our borders. Also found are rare subterranean invertebrates, beach-loving beetles, and uncommon shale barren plants, like Kate's Mountain clover. For more examples, please see Maryland’s rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species lists.
When Captain John Smith and the early European colonists first explored this part of the world, they found it teeming with wildlife, including elk, wolves, bison and prairie-chickens that were part of the lives of Native Americans for thousands of years. Today, these animals are gone from Maryland and many other animal and plant species have greatly declined in numbers. Much of our natural heritage is now confined to small fragments of the original wilderness. The State Wildlife Action Plan provides an essential and effective blueprint of how MD DNR and conservation partners across the state can work to protect Maryland’s remaining wildlife species and their habitats.