Maryland's General Assembly convened for its 439th session on January 9. With the critical support of our members, we are fighting for an array of clean water issues. Central to our focus this session is protecting our natural filters in the form of forests and oysters.
For a third consecutive year, we are advocating for legislation that will strengthen and improve Maryland's forest protections across several laws, including the Forest Conservation Act. CBF is supporting the following three bills that address concerns related to forest loss.
Create a Forest Conservation Task Force
Maryland needs an in-depth Task Force on forest loss to quantify and address future deforestation and make recommendations to prevent forest loss without overly disrupting growth and development. The Task Force legislation would include a diverse group of stakeholders and would create recommendations for improving forest outcomes, including offsetting or avoiding loss and improving maintenance for healthy forests.
Bills introduced: S.B. 729
Reforming the Forest Conservation Fee-in-Lieu Program
The Forest Conservation Act allows local government to collect a fee in lieu of the developer's reforestation responsibilities. However, it has become clear that there are major problems with this program. Local governments are not required to replant the same amount of forest that the developer would have had to plant and are having problems spending the money collected due to lack of resources or land. This results in much less forest mitigation than is required under the law. This legislation would require local governments to replant the same amount of forest that a developer would have had to replant and increase transparency around fee-in-lieu programs.
Bills introduced: S.B. 234 | H.B. 272
No Net Loss of Forests
CBF is supporting legislation that would correct the definition of "no net loss of forest" to reflect current conditions of 40 percent of the state covered by forest land. This bill would change the definition from "40 percent of the state covered in tree canopy" to "40 percent of the state covered in forest land" to reflect the actual forest coverage at the time the policy was enacted. (Tree canopy reflects individual trees in otherwise urbanized areas, such as street trees. Forests reflect a full ecological system that supports healthy soils and habitat.)
Please take action now and tell your legislators to support this important package of legislation for the sake of Maryland's forests and waters! There is no more important time than now to fight for Maryland's forests and a restored Chesapeake Bay across Maryland.
For more information about the important role trees play in keeping our waters clean and healthy, see our 10 Million Trees campaign website.
Our chief goal is passing a bill to protect restored oyster sanctuaries in five targeted tributaries.
Additionally, CBF is supporting legislation to create an inclusive public process to develop an oyster fisheries management plan to ensure sustainable harvest in the future.
Bills Introduced: H.B. 298
CBF is also working closely with the environmental community to track several other bills, including:
Clean Energy Jobs Act
This legislation would require utilities to buy a certain percentage of electricity each year from renewable sources, taking it from the current target of 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030.
Ban on Expanded PolyStyrene Foam
Products made of polystyrene foam packaging, such as cups, plates, clamshells, would no longer be an option for food service businesses and institutions. The bill also prohibits the retail sale of these products in the state.
This would amend Maryland's constitution to guarantee the right to uncontaminated water, breathable air, and a healthy environment for present and future generations of Marylanders.
Learn more about our 2019 legislative priorities and why your support is so critical in this conversation with CBF Staff Attorney Elaine Lutz: