What is the critical area buffer?
The critical area buffer is the land area immediately adjacent to tidal waters, tidal wetlands, and tributary streams. The minimum buffer width is 100-feet; however, on some properties it may be wider because of steep slopes, wetlands, or sensitive soils. On some projects, a wider buffer, often 300-feet or more, was part of the original project approval. The local planning office can assist you in determining the width and location of the buffer on your property.

The buffer serves as an important protective area for aquatic resources and shoreline habitat. The buffer is subject to much stricter requirements than the rest of the Critical Area because it is essential to water quality improvement and fish, wildlife, and plant habitat enhancement. A fully forested buffer is the best environment for filtering pollutants and removing sediment, nutrients, and toxic substances that run off the land and pollute Maryland’s waterways.

A naturally vegetated buffer also provides the most functional habitat for wildlife, providing food, cover, and nesting areas. Vegetation along the shoreline is also essential to maintaining the intertidal zone, which is important to a variety of fish, shellfish, crabs, and birds. The buffer also functions as an important physical barrier between human activity and development related disturbance and Maryland’s streams, creeks, rivers, and bays.

Show All Answers

1. What is the critical area buffer?
2. What are the restrictions in the buffer?
3. If I am building a house or an addition outside the buffer, is buffer planting still required?
4. When is a buffer management plan required?
5. Can I prepare my own buffer management plan?
6. Will my Buffer Management Plan require that I replant areas where I remove vegetation?
7. Do i need a buffer management plan to plant trees, shrubs, or a garden in the buffer?
8. What is the difference between buffer establishment and buffer mitigation?
9. I have a lot of poison ivy, vines, and brush in my buffer. Can I “bush hog” it?
10. What size plants do I need to satisfy a buffer planting requirement?
11. Can i cut small trees in the buffer without a buffer management plan approved by the local government?
12. Can I remove invasive or noxious plants such as English Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, or Phragmites in the buffer?
13. Can I remove a tree or natural vegetation that blocks my view?
14. Can I apply herbicides in the buffer?
15. Can I mow my lawn in the buffer?
16. What can I do about trees that are damaged by storms?
17. Can I trim shrubs and prune trees within the buffer?
18. Is mitigation required for trimming and pruning trees within the buffer?
19. Do I have to plant in the buffer when I am doing a shore erosion control project?
20. Why is planting required for shore erosion control projects when the project is being installed to help the bay by reducing sedimentation?
21. Is mitigation required for access to the shoreline and for stockpile areas created when you do a shore erosion control project?