Counties Revamp Their Forest Conservation Efforts

Concerns over climate change and the health of the bay along with a shift in activism efforts to the local level are leading counties in Maryland to consider more action to slow the loss of forestlands. 

Anne Arundel, Howard, and Frederick Counties have been considering legislation to strengthen their forest conservation laws. Anne Arundel County Council recently passed legislation introduced by County Executive Steuart Pittman after several council amendments. The final wording of the bill will require an increase in conservation thresholds, developer fees, and tree replanting requirements.

Howard County is weighing whether to make changes to their Forest Resource Ordinance.

From coverage in the Bay Journal:

The bill introduced by County Executive Calvin Ball would make nearly 40 changes in the law to strengthen it and combat what county officials have called “forest migration.” Woodlands are being lost in the more densely developed eastern portion of the county, officials say, and trees are being replanted in the more rural western portion. The legislation aims to “keep the natural and built environment together,” explained Joshua Feldmark, director of community sustainability. The bill would require residential developments to manage 75% of their forest retention and replanting onsite. It would increase reforestation requirements, mandating acre-for-acre replacement in many cases, four times the level called for in state law. And it would raise fees developers can pay instead of replanting, putting them on par with what Anne Arundel’s council just passed.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner has a plan to maintain her County’s forest levels.

From the article:

Forest loss in Frederick has lessened in recent years, county data show, but Gardner said that’s not good enough. “My conclusion is that one-to-one replacement still is the only approach that guarantees no net loss to forests,” she said. She said she plans to introduce legislation early next year.

Ben Alexandro, clean water program director for the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said he’s been working with local activists in all three counties to promote forest protections and hopes to do more. After Frederick, he said, he’s eyeing Baltimore County. A study several years ago showed the existing law wasn’t protecting large woodlands there. The county’s chief sustainability officer is Steve Lafferty, a former county delegate who pushed for forest conservation reform. “On a state level, we’ve been frustrated that we can’t even get common sense fixes,” Alexandro said. “Where things can really move is in the counties.”