Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program

Critical Area

Maryland’s Critical Area Program is unique not only because of the significant resources that it is designed to protect, but because it is one of only a few regulatory land use programs in the country that involve a cooperative implementation effort between State and local governments. The purpose of this arrangement is to provide Harford County and other local jurisdictions the flexibility needed to address unique physical, economic, and social characteristics while ensuring that the goals, purposes, policies, and criteria of Maryland’s Critical Area Program are implemented in a consistent and uniform manner.


The Critical Area regulations were designed to improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat, while also allowing for limited development. These regulations direct development away from sensitive habitats, require a buffer between new development and tidal waters, and require the use of stormwater management. Another goal of the Critical Area program is for people to recognize that we can take steps to minimize our development activities on land, and by doing so, can improve the health of our natural areas and the Bay for future generations.