Maryland Update

From the Desk of Alison Prost

Fall 2017

It's Time for Maryland to Protect Its Forests

This coming winter when we return to the Maryland General Assmbly, CBF and its partners will return to an environmental sore spot in the Maryland legislature: the continued cutting down of valuable forests by developers. At least 14,400 acres of woodlands were cleared and not replanted by builders in the past nine years in Maryland, a loss we can't sustain

We need to be increasing our forests, not bulldozing them, if we have any hope of stemming climate change, and of reducing air and water pollution. Trees, and particularly large intact forests, are nature's pollution filters.

While many individual trees are planted by passionate volunteers around the state each year, developers continue to raze forests at a greater rate. State law requires too little of builders in terms of mitigation. Sometimes the builders replant nothing, or pay only a small fee. 

For a second year in a row, CBF will attempt to pass legislation to update and improve a 24-year-old Maryland law called the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). Adopted in 1993, the FCA requires builders to preserve the best forests on development sites. In reality, that usually doesn't happen. The law has slowed forest clearance during development. But in areas where development pressure is intense and forests are considerable, builders cut down on average, more than 40 percent of the forests on their sites. Few, if any, acres are replanted. Neither local governments nor state agencies have insisted builders save all priority forests.

And as University of Maryland researchers recently reported, what's left of forests in such areas is often fragmented—small pieces of unconnected woodlands that don't provide nearly as much pollution filtration, animal habitat, or other benefits as large intact forests.

There are many ways we could improve the FCA, and save more forests from bulldozers. And there are bright spots around the state that offer ideas. Carroll County, for instance, is only one of three counties where the number of acres replanted after development is larger than those cut down. The county uses a "forest banking" program. For each acre cut, a developer must either replant an acre, or pay for an acre to be planted by a private landowner in the program.  

But for the second year, builders statewide are preparing to bulldoze any forest protection legislation. We need your help in this fight. Take action now.

—Alison Prost
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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