The Frederick County Council this evening strengthened its forest protection regulations in a move that will stop forest loss.
The Council unanimously approved bill 20-08, which requires developers to replace every acre of forest they cut down using a 1:1 ratio. The county previously had this policy in place from 2008 to 2011 and it worked to stop forest loss. From 2012 to 2019, when lesser regulations were in place, Frederick experienced a net loss of about 500 acres of forest.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) strongly supported the bill. Trees, other vegetation and soils that compose forests filter out chemicals and excessive nutrients from water as well as harmful air particles such as sulfur dioxide. Forests’ ability to reduce carbon dioxide helps fight climate change.
Frederick County’s passage of this bill marks another milestone in a year filled with progress in strengthening forest protections in Maryland. In November, Anne Arundel County strengthened its forest protection regulations and Howard County approved similar measures in December.
The counties are creating a path for state leaders to expand upon. Maryland’s statewide forest protections have largely been unchanged since the General Assembly approved the 1991 Forest Conservation Act. That aging policy hasn’t protected forests from encroaching development—from 2009 to 2017 about 14,450 acres of forest in the state were cleared.
The Council on Tuesday tabled another bill, 20-07, that CBF supported. The bill excludes natural resources such as wetlands and forests from density calculations, which will better protect these sensitive areas from encroaching development and infrastructure. CBF supports the bill as written, and opposes any potential moves to grandfather development proposals still in the planning process.
In response to the Frederick County Council’s approval of new forest protections, CBF Maryland Assistant Director and Land Use Planner Erik Fisher issued the following statement:
“We’re happy to see Frederick County put in place a policy that will stop forest loss. It’s a regulation we believe is simple, effective, and would benefit forests statewide. The trees and other vegetation that make up forests are natural water and air filters, provide habitat for animals, shade streams, and create healthy soils.
“To protect our natural resources for future generations, we must replant forested land at least at the rate we’re clearing it and that’s what will now happen in Frederick County. We hope the Council will also approve the related zoning measure as written, which will further protect forested land from encroaching development.
“We thank the Council for approving this bill and County Executive Gardner for her leadership and support.”