ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation on Tuesday that will expand the state’s Wildlands Preservation system by 50 percent in nine counties, permanently protecting 22,000 acres of wild areas.
Gov. Martin O’Malley formally proposed the bill at the beginning of the General Assembly session in January. The final version designates new or expanded Wildlands in Allegany, Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Montgomery, Somerset and Worcester counties.
The last new Wildlands designations, made 12 years ago, expanded the system to 29 areas in 15 counties, covering 43,779 acres.
“Maryland’s Wildlands are the last remaining untouched landscapes and waterways of their kind, supporting sensitive ecosystems and many rare and vanishing plants and animals,” O’Malley said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to preserve these areas today, so there can be no question about how they will be used or developed in the future. The passing of this bill is another significant step forward in securing the health and prosperity of our natural world.”
Wildlands benefit the economy of local communities by attracting birdwatchers, fishers, backpackers, hikers, and others who enjoy nature. Many Wildlands house rare and vanishing species, such as purple-fringed orchids. Research is permitted within the system as well.