From capturing and filtering out pollution before it enters our waterways to alleviating flooding by stabilizing the soil, trees provide countless health, economic, and environmental benefits.
Despite their value, they continue to disappear at an alarming rate, and efforts to restore them are lagging. At a time when states, counties, and municipalities are struggling to meet water quality goals, planting trees remains one of the most successful and cost-effective solutions to reducing polluted runoff and cleaning local waterways.
Trees can thrive in urban, suburban, and rural locations, providing unique benefits to each setting. In urban locales, properly placing trees around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating. Trees also filter airborne pollutants, reducing conditions that cause asthma which are prevalent in urban communities. In suburban areas, trees have a positive impact on the salability of homes, with studies finding they can increase property values as much as 20 percent. And in rural locations, one acre of forest can produce between $12,000-$77,000 in environmental benefits each year.
In particular, riparian buffers—trees and shrubs planted along streams—provide outstanding benefits, reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in both rural and urban landscapes. Research suggests that riparian buffers remove 19–65 percent of the nitrogen; 30–45 percent of the phosphorus; and 40–60 percent of the sediment that would otherwise enter adjacent streams. Beyond their filtering prowess, tree canopies shade and cool water, helping to prevent wide fluctuations in temperatures that can stress fish and other aquatic life, and also help stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion. Furthermore, streamside forests sequester carbon and can provide habitat for wildlife, including pollinators, and act as wildlife corridors, providing cover and food sources.
To save the Bay, forests need to flourish throughout the watershed. In addition to planting thousands of trees in critical areas, CBF will continue fighting for strong and sustainable forest protections that will allow trees to continue their water filtering prowess and many other benefits, for generations to come.
Maryland: We Must Reverse Our Loss of Forests
Maryland is losing billions of dollars of benefits from its rapidly declining forests. Between 2008 and 2016, the state lost a net 17,168 acres of forest to development. Developers in Maryland are clearing forests at an unsustainable rate.
Individual counties have widely different success and failure rates for preserving and replanting forests. Some of that stems from local government decisions. Much of it is because of flaws in the state's Forest Conservation Act.
Maryland's Forest Conservation Act (FCA) is supposed to protect forests from overdevelopment. But the Forest Conservation Act needs dramatic improvement. The law has slowed forest clearance during some development, but in areas where development pressure is intense and forests are considerable, the law has allowed clear cutting of some of Maryland's highest quality forests with little to no replacement or transparency in the process. Few, if any, acres are replanted.
House Bill 766, sponsored by Delegate Healey, and Senate Bill 610, sponsored by Senator Young, will update the Forest Conservation Act to protect our most ecologically valuable forests. Take action today to tell you legislators to support HB766 and SB610.
Top 10 Facts About Forests in Maryland