Gov. to Permit Recreational Hunting at Newtowne Neck State Park

Press Release from The Maryland Hunting Coalition, Inc., Sykesville, Md.

ANNAPOLIS (Dec. 4, 2014)—A landmark decision was made by the State of Maryland on December 3, 2014—in response to a plea by a unified hunting community—to permit limited hunting at Newtowne Neck State Park during the 2014-2015 hunting season after having initially declared its suspension there indefinitely.

Located in St. Mary’s County, the State purchased this 776-acre parcel with 7 miles of water frontage in 2009 from the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus – an order of Catholic priests, called Jesuits, who had held it for more than 300 years. Shortly after the property was purchased, the hunting program at Newtowne was implemented as an interim use pending development of the park’s Master Plan. That interim hunting program was suspended in January 2012, when the park was closed after the discovery of military ordinance. The Army Corps of Engineers investigated and found that all munitions debris was inert, and the park reopened in April 2014. However, the State determined that hunting would remain suspended until a final decision was rendered by the Newtowne Neck Master Plan Advisory Committee. Shortly afterwards, a draft report from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)—required by the Maryland Hunting Heritage Protection Act of 2005 – noted that Newtowne was initially closed because of the military ordinance issue and indicated that it will potentially reopen at the conclusion of the Master Plan process.

Faced with the realization that hunting would not be allowed this season and possibly never again, the MDWFA initiated a petition drive to convince the State to change its position. Further, a State lawmaker intervened and requested that hunting be continued. However, the State held to its position that no decision should be made until the Master Planning process had come to an end. Simply, an impasse had been reached.

The Maryland Hunting Coalition was asked to intervene and help resolve the impasse. The Coalition advanced several arguments for overturning the State’s decision, leading with the Maryland Hunting Heritage Protection Act of 2005. This Act requires DNR, with certain exceptions, to open 1 acre of public land to hunting for every 1 acre it closes. DNR listened to all sides and ultimately agreed to reverse course. On December 3, 2014, the Superintendent of the Maryland Park Service informed Members of the Newtowne Neck Master Plan Advisory Committee, among other things, of the following: “As you know, when the Department re-opened the State Park this spring, pre-existing recreational uses such as hiking, fishing and biking were permitted again on the property. Existing parking areas and trails were re-opened and made accessible. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to revisit our initial reluctance to consider a request to extend the same opportunity for hunting.”

Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, Bill Miles stated the following: “Maryland’s hunting community commends not only DNR for having been attentive to its concerns, but, also its brethren consisting of Scott McGuire (NWTF), George Abell (MDWFA) and Billy Price (DU) from Southern Maryland who collectively led this charge from start to finish. They never gave up because they felt in their hearts that right was on their side. Indeed, the State agreed and we can all be grateful that State lawmakers enacted the Maryland Hunting Heritage Projection Act of 2005 which promotes the importance of hunting in the State of Maryland, an Act that played a pivotal role in the State’s final decision.”

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