(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is asking the Anne Arundel County Council to approve the amended version of the forest conservation bill at its next meeting Nov. 18.
The bill has gone through a pendulum of changes. A strong bill was initially put forth by County Executive Steuart Pittman in September. The Council then weakened the bill with several amendments Oct. 21 that threatened to undercut the legislation’s forest protections. However, Council members passed corrective amendments Nov. 4 that CBF believes restored the original intent of the bill.
The current version of the legislation significantly increases the amount of forest that developers must replant after clearing. It increases protections for contiguous forest of more than 75 acres, which serve as important habitat for wildlife. And it increases fines for clearing trees in violation of the law from $3 to $4.50 per square foot, a more reasonable deterrent.
The bill as drafted has the potential to cut forest loss in the county by half. It represents a step forward in a county that has led the state in forest loss since 2010, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Forests purify air and water, they provide habitat to wildlife, sequester carbon, and offer recreational opportunities. Protecting them now is far more economical than installing the stormwater treatment systems and flood protection infrastructure communities need once forests and other natural filters have been cleared.
CBF’s Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“Anne Arundel County Council members have put in the hard work to strengthen forest protections. Now we are urging them to take the final step and pass this important bill so current residents and future generations can enjoy the natural benefits of the county’s forests. Those benefits include their ability to improve the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries. As the Council shifts to working on the long-term growth plan for the county, we’ll continue to make sure environmental protections are a high priority.”