Maryland Update

inside a dense forest - Bill Portlock - 1171x593

Forests are one of our most successful resources in the fight to improve the water quality. Despite their value, they continue to disappear at an alarming rate, and efforts to restore them are lagging.

Bill Portlock

From the Desk of Erik Fisher

Spring 2023

Historic Forest Protections Approved

Maryland lawmakers approved the most significant changes to forest protection laws since 1991 during the 2023 General Assembly session this year. Governor Wes Moore later signed the bill into law.

The new protections include a new state goal to increase forested land and tree canopy. The bill also increases replanting requirements for developers who clear forest by requiring them to replant each acre of forest cleared, in most cases. Under previous law, a developer could, in some cases, clear up to 60 percent of a forested parcel before having any replanting obligation.

The updates seek to stop the forest loss prevalent in Maryland for decades. A new study released last year estimated about 19,000 acres of forest and tree canopy were lost from 2013 to 2018.

The legislation approved this year was a culmination of years of efforts by CBF and other environmental groups to strengthened statewide forest protections.

"We're really thankful to lawmakers for supporting this bill," said Matt Stegman, CBF's Maryland Staff Attorney. "The new protections in this bill will chart Maryland on a path toward forest growth rather than forest loss."

General Assembly Passes Restorative Aquaculture Pilot Program

Maryland state representatives also passed a bill designed to boost oyster aquaculture businesses that restore habitat in the Bay. The legislation enables the state's Department of Natural Resources to set up a pilot program that would pay certain oyster farmers who maintain oyster leases in the Bay that help bring back oyster density, biomass, and complex habitat. CNR will partner with scientific institutions and other experts to design the criteria and incentive structures for the program.

The program may also help increase Maryland's decimated oyster population, which is estimated to be less than five percent of pre-industrial levels.

"This pilot program will test whether aquaculture operators can play a broader role in the oyster restoration activities ongoing in the Bay and its tributaries," said Allison Colden CBF's Maryland Executive Director.

The pilot program could potentially be used to help oyster aquaculture owners who operate on a lease that begins to grow underwater grasses. Previously, those owners would have to move their operations due to the grass growing. Now they may be able to maintain that area, the oysters, and receive funding by enrolling in this program.

Allison Colden Named CBF Maryland Executive Director

Dr. Allison Colden, CBF's Maryland Senior Fisheries Scientist, has been named the new Maryland Executive Director.

Colden will take over the position formerly held by Josh Kurtz, who was appointed as Secretary of the state's Department of Natural Resources by Governor Wes Moore in January. Colden will oversee the Maryland office's efforts to reduce water pollution, educate decision-makers, and strengthen the state's environmental policy in her new role. Her work on fishery issues has given her a broad understanding of the water-quality problems that affect the Bay and the need for clean water.

Colden has led advocacy efforts to pass state bills such as 2019 legislation that permanently protected Maryland's five large-scale oyster restoration sanctuaries. For the past two years, she has overseen CBF's Maryland oyster restoration program, which adds tens of millions of oysters to the Bay each year to sanctuary reefs. She also serves as Maryland's legislative representative to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and an appointed member of Maryland's Oyster Advisory Commission where she works to advance sustainability through regulation and cooperative fisheries management.

"Since joining CBF, Allison has proven she can work through controversial issues with grace, while relying on her scientific expertise," said Alison Prost, CBF's Vice President of Environmental Protection and Restoration.

Colden is an Annapolis resident who received a Ph.D. in marine sciences from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 2015.

—Erik Fisher
Maryland Interim Executive Director
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