County Executive Gardner Proposes Legislation to Improve Forest Conservation

County Executive Jan Gardner is taking the initiative to strengthen the Frederick County Forest Resource Ordinance in the face of a continuing and substantial decline in the amount of forested land in the county.

winchesterhallBelow please find the press release from the county about the proposed legislation to “strengthen the county’s forest conservation efforts,” as well as links to the current Forest Resource Ordinance Program, the draft legislation, the Staff Report about the amendments to be considered, a recent article from the Frederick News Post about the initiative, and a Washington Post column from March about the broader issue in Maryland.


newsrelease

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 27, 2017

CONTACT: Robin Santangelo
Communications Director, 301-600-1315

County Executive Gardner Proposes Legislation to Improve Forest Conservation

FREDERICK, MD – County Executive Jan Gardner today announced a legislative proposal to improve the preservation and conservation of Frederick County forests and tree canopy as our county develops and grows. Forests prevent flooding, reduce storm run-off, keep sediment and other pollution out of streams and creeks, and contribute to the overall quality of life in Frederick County.

“After seeing mass grading and tree removal, many asked me what the county is doing to protect our forests,” said Executive Gardner. “My goal is to conserve and protect our forests and farmland to ensure our long-term bright future for Frederick County.” The number of acres of forested land in Frederick County continues to decline. Between 2001 and 2015, Frederick County lost more than 6,200 acres of forest, with 4,000 of those acres lost in a four-year period.

Executive Gardner is proposing amendments to the Frederick County Forest Resource Ordinance (FRO), originally adopted 25 years ago to protect forests through conservation and preservation as well as “afforestation,” the planting of acres of trees where there were none previously. The FRO regulations were weakened in 2011 to match minimum standards set by the State of Maryland and restore longstanding requirements. Executive Gardner’s legislation would strengthen the county’s forest conservation efforts. The cost of these changes would be minimal to the average development and would only apply to new development in the future. Executive Gardner also proposed a second bill that would require the building of recreational amenities, such as swimming pools and community centers that are exclusively for residents of private communities, within the zoned boundaries of that development.

As with all her initiatives, Executive Gardner will conduct public outreach on her FRO proposal with interested groups. In addition, the Division of Planning and Permitting will discuss the FRO proposal at its next monthly meeting with developers.

For more information, visit www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/FRO or contact the division’s Senior Planner Michael Wilkins at 301-600- 2329 or via e-mail at mwilkins@FrederickCountyMD.gov.

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Frederick County: Rich History, Bright Future

Winchester Hall ● 12 East Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701
301-600-3190 ● Fax 301-600-1050
www.FrederickCountyMD.gov


LINKS

Frederick County Forest Resource Ordinance Program
https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/fro

Draft FRO bill (July 27, 2017)
https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/299177

FRO Amendments Staff Report (June 26, 2017):
https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/299176


Frederick News Post
Gardner plans to grow developers’ forest protection requirements
July 27, 2017
By Danielle E. Gaines

EXCERPT:

Frederick County forests are losing ground, and County Executive Jan Gardner (D) will introduce legislation that aims to preserve — and grow — the tree population.

Gardner announced Thursday that she plans to introduce a bill as early as next month to amend the county’s Forest Resource Ordinance.

Forested land in the county declined by more than 6,200 acres between 2001 and 2015, Gardner said Thursday.

The county’s Geographic Information Systems Division and Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources used aerial photos and lasers to calculate the county’s forest canopy since 2001, Gardner said.

Frederick County was required by the state to create a Forest Resource Ordinance in the early 1990s.

Under the ordinance, developers that remove trees from county land for construction projects are required to mitigate those losses in other ways, through afforestation and reforestation — planting new trees or forests at the site or elsewhere — or by conserving existing forests through permanent easements.

After a decline in 4,000 acres of forested land between 2001 and 2005, the Board of County Commissioners, with Gardner as president, voted in 2007 to increase reforestation requirements and payments.

The law was amended again in 2011 by the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners to mirror minimum state standards.

Gardner’s proposed changes would return to a higher set of standards, and includes amendments to:

• Set a uniform 20 percent afforestation standard for development on all county land types, compared with the current law, which allows a lower afforestation rate of 15 percent for some zoning areas.

• Increase the mitigation ratios for off-site conservation, forestation and forest-banking programs to 2.5 acres of mitigation for every acre of trees that is removed. The ratios are currently 2 to 1.

• Limit how many small-scale plantings, such as shrubs or “street trees,” can be used by developers to meet the requirements of the ordinance.

Gardner said there was evidence that the earlier higher standards helped stem the loss of forested areas. Between 2001 and 2005, 4,000 acres of forest were lost. Under the higher standards between 2008 and 2011, the county added 10 acres, essentially breaking even.

“The stronger regulations actually made a very big difference,” she said.


Washington Post
Maryland should put actual conservation back in the Forest Conservation Act
March 21, 2017
By Alison Prost (Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

EXCERPT:

University of Delaware entomologist Douglas W. Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, finds it curious that the American news media lament the loss of tropical forests yet “have remained silent” about the destruction of local forests.

In the past eight years, developers have cut down 14,480 acres of forest in Maryland without replacement, according to records kept by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Every day in Maryland, a forest area the size of four football fields is cut down to make way for new subdivisions, strip malls and other development.

Of all places, this shouldn’t be happening in Maryland. Recognizing that forests were disappearing at an alarming rate, Maryland enacted the Forest Conservation Act in 1991. The law was intended to minimize the clearing of forests by developers.

The FCA is not getting the job done. Too little forest is being conserved in Maryland.

AND:

It’s bad economics to allow developers to cut so much forest and eliminate so much of the public benefit of those trees without adequate compensation. It’s bad health and environmental policy.

We become apathetic about forests at our peril. There’s too much at stake. Forests are some of the most cost-effective means we have to clean the air and water. They are nature’s sponges.

That’s especially important now. We are depending on forests to play a critical role in saving the Chesapeake Bay, to soak up polluted runoff from farm fields and city streets. We also are counting on trees to help reduce the rising temperatures of the planet by sponging up carbon dioxide.

Let forests continue to help us. Put conservation back in the state Forest Conservation Act.