DNR has new plan for hunting leases on Chesapeake Forest Land

ANNAPOLIS — Hunt club managers and those who lease Chesapeake Forest Lands from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are urged to review revised proposals to the way the state administers these agreements.

Chesapeake Forest Lands comprise more than 73,000 acres in Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester, Dorchester and Caroline counties. Of that amount 19,553 acres are in Somerset County. DNR initially proposed to put leases in a lottery with the first round to be drawn in February.

Through this systematic process 100 percent of all leases would be granted on a lottery basis for fiveyear terms after 2025 with 20 percent up for re-issuing each year. This plan, however, received

pushback locally from hunters, landowners and even the County Commissioners.

In all DNR reports receiving nearly 350 comments.

The revised proposal is now up for comment through Oct. 17 and was subject of a public meeting Tuesday this week at Wor-Wic Community College. It states that current lessees, when their term ends, “may be offered a continuance of 10 years” if in good standing with the state.

New leases starting in 2020 will fall in accordance with DNR’s lottery for a 10-year term with a new lease available if in good standing. DNR will consider fair market value rates, and management needs.

As the draft policy states: “DNR may issue leases outside of the Lottery System to legal entities or individuals for reasons that clearly benefit the State’s interests as determined by DNR, including, but not limited

to, land conservation and management needs, a landlocked parcel, an unimproved right- of-way, or access conflicts with adjacent landowners.

“DNR may lease these parcels for the: (1) Per-acre price as established by the Lottery System for similar DNR properties in the same geographic region; or (2) County average market price per-acre as compiled by the Maryland Forest Service.”

If less than 50 percent of Chesapeake Forest Lands are available for public hunting, DNR reserves the right to designate additional public hunting land “through the conversion of mismanaged or non- delegated lease tracts, or through future land acquisitions at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Visit DNR’s website at https:// tinyurl. com/y3a4xu5h for the links to the revised proposal and comment page. No comments can be submitted after the Oct. 17 deadline.