Growing up in Maryland, the forests and woods in our communities have always been a place of fresh air, sanctuary, and play. As high school students on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Student Bay Advisory Council, we recently learned more about the importance of forests beyond their aesthetic and recreational value. And the list of benefits forests provide is long.
Trees are a crucial element to any ecosystem, human or otherwise. They promote clean air and water, combat climate change, increase property values, provide wildlife habitat, and improve human health and well-being. Given the numerous benefits of forests, we were dismayed to learn that Maryland has lost over 15,000 acres of woodlands in the past nine years alone.
This shouldn't happen. Maryland has legislation, the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), that should protect Maryland's most ecologically valuable forests. But this 27-year old law is not working as intended. The law has slowed forest clearance during some development, but in areas where development pressure is intense, developers have cut down more than 40 percent of forests on average. Few, if any, acres have been replanted.
Just as the list of benefits forests provide is long, so is the list of consequences when they're removed. The elimination of priority forests increases risks from flooding and erosion, worsens air quality, and impairs water quality. These consequences are even worse when trees located next to streams and rivers are removed, as these serve as ecological buffers which prevent harmful runoff and erosion.
Fortunately, there's an alternative to the status quo of losing our forests. A revitalized and improved FCA, House Bill 766, sponsored by Delegate Healey, and Senate Bill 610, sponsored by Senator Young, would protect Maryland's most ecologically valuable forests. But we need your help. Take action and click here to send a letter to your legislators telling them to support the revitalized and improved FCA. And take the next step to meet your legislators in person, joining us in Annapolis February 20 for Rally Your Reps Day.
We want future generations to experience the same forests and woods we have enjoyed exploring throughout our young lives. Some of our fondest childhood memories were made climbing trees, our hands and clothes sticky from sap, reaching a height so high that we felt as if we were on top of the world. Join us in the fight to preserve Maryland's forests. With this new and improved FCA, Maryland's neighborhoods can be the most economically and ecologically vibrant in the country.
–Jane Bailey, a senior at Leonardtown High School’s Academy of Global and International Studies, and Grace Kim, a junior in Poolesville High School’s Global Ecology Program, are both members of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Student Bay Advisory Council