The Sustainable Forestry Council, which was created by the Sustainable Forestry Act of 2009 (SB 549), has released a draft report on a “no net loss of forests” proposal. The draft report cites one of the key reasons of forest loss as past local land use decisions.
The loss of forests and other working lands is occurring parcel by parcel across the state. In 2006, the Governor’s Commission for Protecting the Chesapeake Bay through Sustainable Forestry noted the primary threat to forests is the “development of forests due to uninformed local land use decisions leading to the parcelization and fragmentation of forests and conversion to non-forest uses.” There are numerous opportunities now for local governments to better incorporate forest conservation into land use planning. Local governments are currently developing federally mandated Watershed Implementation Plans that map out their roles in reducing nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, they are currently updating Local Land Preservation and Recreation Plans and Priority Preservation Area Plan Elements.
The draft report proposes to implement its no net loss of forest proposal by prioritizing forest conservation, protecting high quality forests, offsetting all sources of forest loss, and encouraging working-land and family owned forest stewardship. Many of the report’s recommendations involve changes to local land use practices, including:
- Protect forest conservation areas with an enhanced mitigation requirement of at least 4:1
- Maintain at least a 40% urban tree canopy cover
- Enhance mitigation requirements for low to medium-density housing in woodland conservation areas
- Require county governments to prepare a forest resource element in their comprehensive plans
- Limit the use of exemptions in the Forest Conservation Act and develop options to assist local governments in using their fee-in-lieu funds
- Create incentives to encourage landowner stewardship in forest conservation, urban tree canopy and woodland conservation areas
There will be a public meeting on the draft plan on November 8 from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM in the C-1 conference room at the Tawes State Office Building in Annapolis. You can also comment on the draft report here.