The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today is calling on the Maryland House of Delegates to support a bill to strengthen the state’s forest protections after the Senate unanimously approved the legislation during its voting session Thursday.
CBF has been strongly supporting the legislation—SB526/HB723—that would preserve more forest by increasing replanting requirements for developers that clear trees. It also provides local jurisdictions with more flexibility to achieve no net loss of forested land. Reaching that goal would represent a turning point in Maryland history, given that the state has been losing forested land for decades, mostly to construction. CBF and many others in Maryland’s environmental community have been pursuing ways to strengthen the state’s forest protections for nearly a decade. This year’s legislation is the best opportunity to get it done.
By increasing protections for forested land, lawmakers have the opportunity to improve water quality and mitigate climate change. Trees filter water, decrease stormwater runoff, remove air pollutants, bolster shorelines, reduce urban heat islands, protect against flooding, and benefit human mental and physical health.
CBF’s Maryland Staff Attorney Matt Stegman issued the following statement:
“We’re extending a hearty thanks today to Maryland Senators, in particular Sen. Sarah Elfreth, the bill’s Senate sponsor, as well as the Senate Education, Energy, and Environment Committee for their support of this legislation to protect Maryland’s forests.
“Today's Senate vote proves this bill has widespread and bipartisan support. The Senate environment committee worked diligently to pass amendments that address concerns about potential impacts to affordable housing and smart growth. The updated bill will ensure cities and towns can grow in a way that protects forests. Trees provide clean water and are among our best defenses against climate change. Protecting the forests we still have should be among the state’s highest priorities.
“We’re now asking House lawmakers to approve this bill before the end of the General Assembly session. Doing so will ensure Maryland’s forest protections align with 21st century needs.”