Senate Bill Number: 526
House Bill Number: 723
A recent study published by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology of the University of Maryland found that Maryland experienced a net statewide forest loss of more than 19,000 acres from 2013 through 2018!
Forest clearing has significant negative impacts on water quality, air quality, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, property values, and increases localized flooding. Maryland forests provide countless benefits to their plant and animal inhabitants, as well as to human health and wellness. The Natural Resources – Forest Preservation and Retention bill will strengthen protections for forests, decreasing forest fragmentation while maintaining and increasing the total acreage of forest state wide.
Further details on availability and restrictions below.
Senator Sarah K. Elfreth (District 30)
Senator Guy Guzzone (District 13)
Senator Dawn Gile (District 33)
Senator Katie Fry Hester (District 9)
Senator Benjamin F. Kramer (District 19)
Senator Clarence K. Lam (District 12)
Senator Shelly Hettleman (District 11)
Senator Mary Washington (District 43)
Senator Chris West (District 42)
Senator Craig J. Zucker (District 14)
If Passed, What Would this Bill Do?
- Update forest goals and definitions to provide clarity and reflect new data.
- Change state policy regarding the “retention and sustainable management of forest lands” from encouraging achieving no-net-forest-loss, to increasing forest land acreage and tree canopy across MD.
- Provide afforestation* requirements for developed areas, while establishing priority afforestation and reforestation areas.
- Establish forest conservation thresholds for agricultural and resource areas, medium, high-density, mixed-use and planned unit development areas, commercial and industrial use areas, and institutional development areas. The forest conservation threshold means the percentage of the net tract area at which the reforestation requirement changes from a ratio of 1/4 acre planted for every 1 acre removed, to a ratio of 2 acres planted for every 1 acre removed. Likewise, it establishes a formula for payment into the Forest Conservation Fund.
- Establishes parameters for afforestation and reforestation efforts, both on-site and off-site. Likewise, standards for meeting afforestation and reforestation requirements are established to guide State and local programs.
*Afforestation -- The act of establishing a forest, especially on land not previously forested.
- Visit mdelect.net and enter your address to look up your state representatives and their contact information.
- Here is a fact sheet to familiarize yourself with the bill.
- Call your legislators! You’d be amazed by how important your voice is to your local legislator.
- Email your legislators and let them know that you want to see Maryland forest land preserved and acreage increased. You can use the above points to guide your email.
A recent study published by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology of the University of Maryland found that Maryland experienced a net statewide forest loss of more than 19,000 acres from 2013 through 2018. Losses to development and forest fragmentation - particularly in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Charles, Calvert and Baltimore County - remain significant.
Maryland's Forest Conservation Act, passed in 1991, introducing a minimum floor for mitigation when forests are cleared for development. But these standards are not equipped to address today's challenges to climate and clean water. An unbalanced reforestation ratio of a quarter acre planted for each acre cleared, combined with other credits, means that nearly two-thirds of a forested site can be felled with no replanting required at all. Without clear definitions and protections for the state's most valuable priority forests, too many are left fragmented and vulnerable to degradation.
The program is a legal agreement between the landowner and the Department of Natural Resources and is recorded in the land records of the county in which the property is located. The landowner agrees to manage their forest land according to a management plan that is prepared for the property. ANY owner of five or more contiguous acres of forest land may enter the program. House sites, crop land and other non-forest open space is not eligible. Open land that was recently planted to forest tree seedlings can be included in the program after one growing season. Land used to grow Christmas trees is also eligible if the trees will be cut at harvest.
This legislation aims to alter the definition of "qualified conservation" for purposes of provisions of law related to forest mitigation banks; establishing and authorizing certain alternative methods of calculating forest afforestation, reforestation, and preservation requirements; adding certain tree plantings and practices as methods that certain municipal corporations may use to meet afforestation or reforestation requirements. This bill increases protections for forests, shifting Maryland’s forest goals from “no net loss” to increasing forest land, establishing reforestation and afforestation requirements that benefit efforts to increase forest land, provides State and local programs standards for afforestation and reforestation, and establishes parameters for afforestation and reforestation efforts. Overall, it aims to increase protections for Maryland forest land and increase the total amount of Maryland forest land.
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