Changes to Forest Conservation Fund Enhance the Program’s Effectiveness

On March 1, 2023, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko submitted testimony to the House Environment and Transportation Committee in support of HB 530 – Natural Resources – Forest Mitigation Banks and the Forest Conservation Fund – Alterations.

This bill extends the deadline for counties to use resources distributed through the Forest Conservation Fund to aid in forest mitigation efforts, among other alterations designed to extend the Program’s effectiveness. The practice of forest mitigation facilitates continued project development while minimizing the adverse effects that construction can have on tree cover in affected areas. Through the Forest Conservation Fund, developers can purchase credits that authorize them to proceed with construction, and the money raised through the purchase of these credits is then used for reforestation and afforestation.

From the MACo Testimony:

HB 530 would serve to strengthen the Forest Conservation Fund in several ways. The primary benefits would be the extension of time by which local jurisdictions can use forest conservation funds for reforestation or afforestation; and the restoration of the ability for counties to use the forest banking as a mitigation measure. The bill also removes a December 2020 deadline for approval of forest conservation plans, preserving the practice of forest banking that was intended to be paused until the completion of the Harry R. Hughes Center’s study, which was published in December 2023.

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