On March 1, 2023, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the House Environment and Transportation Committee in support of HB 723 – Natural Resources – Forest Preservation and Retention with amendments.
The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, SB 526, on March 2.
HB 723 serves to comprehensively revise Maryland’s approach to forest conservation. The bill stipulates that all development projects must proceed with no net loss of trees, and reauthorizes the practice of forest mitigation banking to achieve this goal. It also elevates the role counties play in reforestation and afforestation by lowering the acreage threshold required for participation in forest conservation programs, among other provisions designed to expand the tools counties can employ to aid in forest conservation efforts. Counties support HB 723 and it’s cross-file, but urge the General Assembly to consider amendments ensuring that the final product is both implementable and has the flexibility to fit the unique contours of Maryland’s system of local governance.
From the MACo Testimony:
Forest conservation touches more than just trees. Policies protecting these natural areas also have an impact on development and public health. Counties recognize that one of the value propositions of living in Maryland is its natural landscapes, including its forests. But this must also be valued with economic growth and further development. Counties are not suggesting that these three goals − conservation, growth, and public health − are mutually exclusive. But counties do urge the General Assembly to consider the broader impact of such wide-reaching and comprehensive legislation.
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