(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is supporting Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner’s efforts to strengthen the county’s forest conservation ordinance.
Today, Gardner unveiled legislative changes she’s proposing to the County Council that if approved would establish a no net forest loss policy in Frederick County. This bill would ensure that developers replace the acres of forest cut down for a project by replanting the same amount of acres elsewhere.
A companion bill would also update Frederick County’s zoning regulations to ensure sensitive environmental features are protected from intense uses when properties are developed. This change would prevent developers from including acreage of priority forest conservation areas, wetlands, floodplains, streams, and roadways that are on their properties in the calculations that determine the number and size of structures they can build. The new formula would ensure that protections for these features are not overwhelmed by inappropriate density allowances on a sensitive environmental site.
Taken together these changes would restore Frederick County’s position as a leader in forest conservation as it faces intense development pressure from the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore regions. Frederick has the fourth fastest growth rate in the state, according to the Maryland Department of Planning, with more than 70,000 new residents expected to move into the county over the next twenty years. Frederick County successfully managed forest loss and development under a similar policy for years before those protections were drastically reduced under past county leadership.
At the state level there has been a reluctance to update Maryland’s landmark 1991 forest conservation law to better preserve existing forests in the climate change era. The state law generally requires that for every four acres of forest that is removed for a development project, one acre of forest must be planted in a nearby area. Efforts to update that law in the General Assembly have stalled, despite overwhelming scientific evidence showing that protecting forests is among the most effective ways to protect water quality and limit the negative impacts of climate change. Forests absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, increase soil health, prevent flooding, provide habitat to animals, and filter water. And old, established forests provide these benefits at much greater levels than recently replanted forests.
During the past year, CBF supported efforts in Anne Arundel County and then Howard County to strengthen local forest conservation laws. The County Councils in both jurisdictions approved greater protections. CBF will continue to support county-level efforts to strengthen forest protections while also encouraging state legislators to update the statewide forest protection law.
In response to Frederick County’s proposed forest protections, Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“This new legislation prioritizes forest conservation in Frederick County by preventing forest loss due to development. It will ensure that any forest stand cut down will be replanted elsewhere.
“Forests clean water, purify air, and prevent flooding. For too long these benefits have deteriorated as cities and towns expand with sprawling developments. Given the pressing environmental issues of our time, we must continue to strengthen forest protections. Thank you to County Executive Gardner for proposing this policy and we urge the Frederick County Council to put these changes into law.”