Collaborative project shares best practices for Chesapeake Bay forest health

** This story is part of a series and highlights one of the 14 common themes identified in the 2020 Eastern Region State Forest Action Plan summary report. This story highlights the theme Collaboration and Partnerships. **

  • Tree Measurements

    a group gathers around a tree to watch a biltmore stick demonstration which measures the tree

    State Division of Forestry personnel demonstrate how to use a Biltmore stick, which measures tree diameter and height. Courtesy photo by University of Maryland Extension.

  • Delmarva Woodland Stewards

    large group of people gather for a photo with tall fall colored trees in background

    Attendees of the first Delmarva Woodland Stewards program. Courtesy photo by University of Maryland Extension.

On the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay lies the Delmarva Peninsula, so named because this land mass contains portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The peninsula is on the coastal plain on top of an ancient sea floor, which leads to sandier, acidic soils that strongly influence the vegetation.

Working in collaboration with Delaware and Virginia, Maryland is leading a Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) project, supported by USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry, titled “Delmarva Woodland Stewards for Wildlife, Wildfire, Water, and Wood”. This project aims to support the collaborative restoration of this multi-state priority area by working with citizen stewards to improve forest management and expand capacity for wildlife management practices.

The Forest Service State and Private Forestry LSR program promotes collaboration on projects that cross multiple jurisdictions, including tribal, state and local governments and private forestland, to address large-scale issues.

One of the project deliverables in the LSR grant was to design a Delmarva Woodland Stewards program specifically geared for the ecological conditions present in the Delmarva Peninsula. University of Maryland Extension modeled the new program from successful programs such as the University of Maryland Extension Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists and Maryland Woodland Stewards. The program trained volunteers in sustainable forest management and empowered them to share that knowledge within their communities to increase species diversity, eliminate invasives species and improve forest health.

The Delmarva Woodland Stewards program sessions were presented by multiple collaborators, including experts from Virginia and Delaware Cooperative Extensions, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the Delaware Forest Service, Delaware Master Naturalists, Maryland Forest Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, The Nature Conservancy and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

“We taught participants concepts of silviculture and how forest management practices can be used to improve forest productivity for wildlife, maintain and improve water quality and enhance structural, age-class and species diversity,” said Luke Macaulay, wildlife management specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.

The course ended with a field trip highlighting the various coastal environments and management practices in place across the three states. For more from the field trip, check out this video demonstration of tree coring, which can reveal a tree’s age and growth patterns.

“Going to all three states showed that the forest management techniques are the same all across the peninsula — or anywhere on the mid-Atlantic coastal plain,” said Matthew Hurd, regional forester with the Maryland Forest Service, who partnered with Macaulay in the development of the new stewardship program.

In the words of one participant from the first Delmarva Woodland Stewards program, “This course changed the way I see the woods.”