Maryland Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Maryland’s Wildlife Diversity Conservation Plan lays the groundwork for conserving Maryland’s full array of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife by focusing on its more vulnerable species and the lands and waters they require for survival.

The action plan reviews the status and conservation needs of 502 “at risk” wildlife species and further summarizes these into 35 “key wildlife habitats,” such as Carolina bays, tidal marshes, grasslands and old growth forests. Threats and conservation actions, as well as inventory, research and monitoring needs, are recommended for each of the key wildlife habitats. Because both species- and habitat-based needs have been considered, Maryland’s action plan will help guide the conservation of all wildlife species.


Maryland’s natural landscape has been significantly altered by population increase and associated human activities. By the 1990s both the state’s forests and wetlands had been reduced by half. Human development currently drives land cover changes in Maryland. Federal, state or local governments manage approximately 12% of Maryland’s land area, including such areas as Assateague Island National Seashore and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Wildlife Highlights

Delmarva fox squirrels grace Eastern Shore forests. Bald eagles depend on forests and open water. Brook trout inhabit clear, coldwater streams.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Maryland

Maryland’s action plan outlines 24 overarching statewide conservation actions. Habitat loss and fragmentation are common themes among the many significant threats.

Habitat Loss

Habitat loss can occur either directly, such as filling wetlands for development, or indirectly, such as through pesticide contamination or through deer overbrowse impacting the structural diversity within a forest. Habitat loss can be obvious, such as a new housing development where an old growth forest formerly stood, or it can be insidious, such as an unforested stream buffer increasing the erosion of stream banks and the amount of sediment within the stream.

Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation results from breaking up larger landscapes into smaller patches. Housing development, new roads, stream diversions and dams can isolate animal populations, create barriers to wildlife movement, and lead to wildlife declines. Fragmentation can be especially harmful to aquatic wildlife, such as freshwater mussels, and to animals that need large habitats, including songbirds like scarlet tanagers and meadowlarks.

Working Together for Maryland’s Wildlife

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invited more than 400 conservation partners to assist in the development of the action plan. Partners included resource professionals from governmental agencies, colleges and universities, and conservation organizations, such as National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Maryland Farm Bureau. Advice and input were sought by various means, including surveys, personal contact and correspondence, meetings and presentations. Stakeholders and the public were kept informed of the plan’s progress and allowed to comment through an online forum.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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