Maryland Department of Planning Offers Forestry Guidance to Maryland Local Governments  

Planning Assistance in Action  

by Daniel Rosen, AICP, Natural Resources Planner with Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner  

Maryland is home to approximately 2,500,000 acres of forest lands. Of these, 24 percent are publicly owned as parks, state forests, federal wildlife sanctuaries, and conservation areas, while the majority, 1.87 million acres, or 76 percent, are privately owned.1

Some of these landowners wish to generate income from their forests without developing the land for more suburban or urban uses. While local land use planning and zoning often play a vital role in forestry, local zoning ordinances do not always include a full array of allowed forestry activities or uses.  

“Forestry” means more than cutting down trees; the definition also includes forest management, timber harvesting, and the creation of wood products.

By following protective state statutory and regulatory requirements, various branches of the forestry industry can provide both economic and environmental benefits, including reducing the risks of wildfires through best management practices, such as prescribed burns. (Read about prescribed burning in the Maryland Department of Planning’s (MDP’s) July 2022 edition of Planning Practice Monthly.)  

MDP’s Forestry Guidance to Local Governments, written with input from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other stakeholders, has two main goals:

  1. Help local officials become familiar with the many facets of forestry in the state and the Maryland laws and regulations that govern it.  
  1. Provide examples of how local planning efforts and zoning mechanisms can accommodate the different aspects and activities of forestry, thereby making local officials more familiar with forestry practices within their jurisdictions.  

This well-illustrated guidance document defines an array of forestry terms and explains applicable state forestry industry laws and regulations. It also discusses the plans required for forest management and harvest, includes suggestions for allowable forestry activities within different local zoning districts, and provides ideas for innovative zoning approaches. One such approach which the document describes, and which MDP encourages readers to consider, is a Washington State Rural Industrial and Manufacturing Zone that permits wood processing activities to operate closer to their source materials.    

For more information, please visit MDP’s Forestry Guidance to Local Governments webpage or contact Daniel Rosen, AICP, Natural Resource Planner at Be sure to follow Planning Practice Monthly for information about future MDP outreach and forestry guidance.  

1 Maryland Manual Online:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s