Forest Conservation Act Amendments

Thou Shall Not Steal Trees from the Next Generation

We are excited to report that two of our Forest Conservation bills passed the Maryland legislature. The Governor has until May 28th to veto the bill. You can call Governor Hogan at 410-974-3901 to let him know you support these bills. (Scroll down to next section to read about the bills that passed so you can call Gov. Hogan about them!)

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  • Maryland lost 14,488 acres of forest to development from 2009 to 2017 (according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources), despite a state policy that says we should have "No Net Loss." 14,488 acres is roughly equal to 11,000 football fields!
  • In just the past year alone, another 2,600 acres of forest have been lost, according to research from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation -- and that's a low estimate because some counties like Montgomery, Cecil, and Baltimore City failed to file their annual report. 
  • The Forest Conservation Act has been on the books for 25 years, but needs strengthening because the law is not meeting its intended purpose to minimize forest destruction by development. 
  • Since 2013, the faith community has planted over 14,000 trees at their churches, synagogues, and temples. However, for every 1 acre of forest planted by the faith community, Maryland lost 40 acres to development.

Society cannot keep up with this pace of forest decimation. The Forest Conservation Act amendments will help protect priority forests for future generations. 


A Suite of 3 Bills

  1. PASSED! Study Bill – Del. Healey (HB 735/SB 729)
    • Click here to read our written testimony
    • Goal: To form a task force made up of broad stakeholders to clarify and confirm the data set that lawmakers should be working from.
    • This bill will also require the Task Force to make a recommendation to lawmakers, and once recommendations are made formally, lawmakers cannot ignore that
  2. PASSED! Fee in Lieu Adjustments – Del. Lafferty (HB 272), Sen. Young (SB 234)
    • Click here to read our written testimony
    • Goal: Fix a broken system that is not resulting in acre for acre replanting
    • When development occurs, if it will remove forests, the developer is required to replant trees onsite or somewhere else in the county, and if they can’t, they can pay a fee to the county and the County will plant the trees. But the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, when trying to figure out why forests were being depleted, found that counties were not replanting trees, and in most cases the fee in lieu money was just sitting there, unused.
    • When fees are collected – sometimes the money collected is used to replant, but not at an acre for acre ratio. So if a developer pays a $10,000 fee for the removal of 20 acres of forest, the county might use that $10,000 fee but only able to replant 8 acres of forest. T
    • This bill will make the following adjustments to the fee in lieu program:
      • Require forest bank mitigation before fee-in-lieu, when banking is available
      • Require that there is an acre for acre replacement with the fee in lieu funds
      • Require that counties not accept fees if they have no plan for replanting - this would halt permit issuance until a replanting plan is in-place. If they cannot accept the fees, they will be required to go back to the developer and require the developer to come up with a replanting plan before the permit is issued.
  3. Not Passed - Redefine the definition of No Net Loss – Sen. Young (SB 203), Del. Love (HB 120)
    • Goal: Establish a new definition of "No Net Loss" to inform future policies so that forested land is protected at the level it existed when the definition was first entered as statute.
    • In 2013, a No Net Loss definition was entered as statute and defined as "40% tree canopy". However, high-resolution data available indicates that at that time, tree canopy was actually 51%. So, the current definition actually allows a loss of 10% of tree canopy, which is directly contradictory to No Net Loss!
    • The 2013 data set indicated that it was "forested land" that was at 40% at that time. So if we shoot for "40% tree canopy", we lose tree canopy. If we shoot for "40% forested land", that actually holds the line on a No Net Loss policy.
    • This bill will change the definition from “40% of the state covered in tree canopy” to “40% of the state covered in forest land” to reflect the actual forest coverage at the time the policy was enacted.
    • A more in-depth explanation of this nuance in the definition is provided here.

For additional background information, review this Value of Trees or this Fact Sheet


Actions You Can Take

  1. Call Gov. Hogan and ask him to sign into law the two bills above that PASSED. You can call him at 410-974-3901.
  2. Sign up to be an Advocacy Leader for next session so that we can bring more faith-filled voices to bear next year.