New Court Ruling Opens Ability to Challenge Forest Conservation Plans

Earlier this week the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that forest conservation plans can be legally challenged after being approved.

In a recent major ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that forest conservation plans for development projects can be legally challenged after being approved. Advocates claim that the ruling that will help ensure developers follow state law when proposing to clear forested tracts for construction projects.

Background: A Forest Conservation Plan (FCP) is a document that outlines the specific strategies for retaining, protecting, and reforesting or afforesting areas on a site, pursuant to the 1991 Maryland Forest Conservation Act. In the recent case of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc., et al. v. CREG Westport Developers I, LLC, et al, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) sued, claiming that the approved FCP did not go far enough and that developers should be made to protect a greater portion of the contiguous forest and the specimen trees.

Key Findings: The ruling from the Maryland Court of Appeals opened the door for more challenges to FCPs. According to the CBF:

…the ruling establishes the importance of Maryland’s 1991 Forest Conservation Act and clarifies how questions related to it can be challenged in court. The Court of Appeals made clear in the ruling that forest protections must be followed in the same way as critical area and wetlands protections in Maryland. The opinion enables citizens, nonprofits, community organizations, and others with legal standing to challenge construction projects’ approved forest conservation plans even if a county or city is reviewing the overall project’s site plan.

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