(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is urging Anne Arundel County Council members to not accept amendments that would weaken the promising forest conservation bill that’s before them. The bill and any amendments are expected to be taken up by the Council on Monday.
The current bill doubles or triples the existing forest conservation thresholds in most cases. The thresholds are used by the county to determine the area of tree-covered land a developer must preserve before incurring replanting obligations.
The existing conservation thresholds are far too low and have resulted in Anne Arundel County leading the state in forest loss since 2010, according to estimates from the Chesapeake Bay Program. For example, current thresholds for commercial and mixed-use developments enable developers to clear 68 acres of a 100-acre forested site without having to replant any trees. Under the proposed bill, that same developer would only be able to clear 32 acres before replanting efforts are required. Amending the proposed bill to increase existing thresholds by only 5 or 10 percent presents very little improvement over the status quo and allows massive amounts of forest loss to continue.
Today, CBF is also releasing a new report that details why the current bill presents the best option for Anne Arundel County to begin reversing its long-term forest loss. The report covers how the bill would protect the county’s remaining forested land by:
- Incentivizing developers to keep larger areas of forest intact,
- Requiring greater replanting efforts when forests are cut, and
- Ensuring fees paid to the county for cutting trees covers the full cost of replanting them.
The County Council is next scheduled to discuss the forest conservation bill (68-19) and possibly vote on any proposed amendments to it at the Council’s 7 p.m. meeting Monday in Annapolis.
CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“We will not stand by and watch the Anne Arundel County Council approve a forest conservation bill that is weakened to the point where it no longer conserves forests. A failure to act now in a meaningful way would put Anne Arundel at risk of losing its last remaining intact forests. Replacing trees later takes much more time and effort than preserving them now. We urge the council to approve a strong bill, rather than punt the county’s long-term forest loss problem to a future Council, or worse, our children.”