Chesapeake Bay Critical Area |

Charles County, Maryland

Chesapeake Bay Critical Area

Chesapeake Bay Critical Area

The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Act was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 1984 to foster more sensitive development activity along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay so as to minimize damage to water quality and wildlife habitats.  The Critical Area was defined by the Act “as a strip of land along the tidal shoreline extending 1,000 feet landward from the water’s edge, or from the landward boundary of any adjacent tidal wetland.” 

The Act requires coordinated efforts between the State and the local jurisdictions surrounding the Bay to address the impacts of land development within the Critical Area, and establishes the following goals:

• Minimize adverse impacts on water quality that result from pollutants that are discharged from structures or conveyances or that have run off from surrounding lands;

• Conserve fish, wildlife, and plant habitat in the Critical Area; and

• Establish land use policies for development in the Critical Area which accommodate growth and also address the fact that, even if pollution is controlled, the number, movement, and activities of persons in the Critical Area can create adverse environmental impacts.

The Charles County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program is pursuant to the requirements found in Natural Resources Article, Title 8, Subtitle 18, of Annotated Code of Maryland, and Title 27, Subtitle .01 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), entitled, “Criteria for Local Critical Area Program Development”.  This Program was initially adopted by Charles County in June 1989, and has been periodically updated.  The Charles County Critical Area Zone Regulations are Article IX of Chapter 297 of the Code of Charles County Maryland.

All agricultural, fishery, forestry and development activities, including the alteration, or use of any land for residential, commercial, industrial, or institutional purposes in the Charles County Critical Area, requires compliance with applicable regulatory provisions, and County approval prior to commencement of the activity.  

Removing an individual tree in the Charles County Critical Area for personal use, safety, or protection of property requires County approval.  All trees removed are required to be replaced on an equivalent ratio.  Anyone who removes a tree or provides other tree care services for a fee is required by the State of Maryland to be a Licensed Tree Expert.

The Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays is a great resource for the latest regulatory updates, guidance publications, explanatory presentations, and an interactive mapping tool.

For more information on the County’s Critical Area Program, please contact the County’s Critical Area Planner at 301-645-0540 or

Critical Area Planting Plan Maintenance Agreement

Links and Reports:
Charles County Critical Area Maps
Charles County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program Update
Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Regulations 
Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping
Maryland Department of Environment, Wetlands and Waterways Division

IMPORTANT PLEASE NOTE:  All publications located within the Planning and Growth Management section of the web site are believed to be accurate as of their posting date. However, they may not be accurate on the day you view them. To verify whether these documents are the most current official document, please contact the division associated with the document in question.