(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—On Monday night, the Anne Arundel County Council unanimously passed the forest conservation bill that council members have been debating since County Executive Steuart Pittman first proposed strengthening forest protections in September.
The council significantly amended Pittman’s initial proposal, but ultimately passed a bill that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) believes will lead to fewer trees being cleared for development. In most cases, the weak previous regulations allowed developers to clear more than 60 percent of a forested site without having to replant or mitigate the loss of the trees elsewhere. The result was Anne Arundel County losing about 2,500 acres of tree canopy from 2013 to 2017, according to a satellite data analysis by the Chesapeake Conservancy.
CBF estimates the newly passed forest conservation legislation will cut forest loss in the county by half. It significantly increases the amount of forest developers must replant after clearing, increases protections for contiguous forest of more than 75 acres, and raises fines for clearing in violation of the law from $3 to $4.50 per square foot.
The trees and other vegetation that make up forests sequester carbon, filter water, and provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Trees help alleviate the effects of climate change and limit soil erosion during and after rain storms.
In response to the Council’s vote, CBF’s Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“Anne Arundel County is laying the foundation for a more sustainable future by increasing protections for its remaining forested land. Trees provide a bulwark against climate change and have natural filtering abilities that improve air and water quality. That’s why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is working at every level of government to advocate for forest protection. We hope other cities and counties will follow Anne Arundel County and find ways to limit forest clearing.
“Thank you to County Executive Steuart Pittman for putting forth a strong bill and to the County Council for working through a number of amendments to find common ground and unanimously pass this needed new law.”