View of Frederick County. Photo from Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Legislation Seeks to Strengthen Frederick County’s Forest Conservation Policies

04/15/2020
By Elly Colmers Cowan

Smart Growth Maryland helps lead a number of countywide coalitions that advocate for smart growth policy including in Frederick County where several important bills are being considered by the County Council.

The Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County is a coalition of local and state organizations representing approximately 16,000 members and supporters in Frederick County. Under the co-leadership of Smart Growth Maryland, the Alliance engages residents and policymakers in support of wise land use that values rural landscapes, protects natural resources, and enhances the unique character of towns and cities to ensure a more resilient and prosperous future.

The Alliance has been working recently in support of several pieces of legislation relating to the county’s Forest Resource Ordinance.

County Council Bills 20-05 and 20-04 introduced by Council Member Kai Hagen, at the request of County Executive Jan Gardner, seeks to increase forest protections in the face of increasing development pressure in Frederick County. Increasing forest protections is imperative for the health and well-being of county residents and the environment in which they live.

Trees in Frederick County. Photo from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Trees in Frederick County. Photo from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

More over, Council Bill 20-05 proposes updating the existing forest conservation ordinance to ensure that developers replace every acre of forest lost during the project by replanting the same number of acres elsewhere. This bill also ensures compliance with the state Forest Conservation Act and retains the 2-to-1 replanting clause for development projects that remove more forest than allowed under the existing conservation thresholds. If approved, new development would have no net-loss of forested land and would restore Frederick County’s position as a leader in forest conservation in the face of intense development pressure. Additionally, Council Bill 20-04 would amend Frederick County’s zoning process to ensure priority forests and other sensitive environmental features are protected from intense uses if those properties are developed.

These bills will be heard at a virtual public hearing on May 5, 2020. More information about how the virtual hearing will be conducted is forthcoming.

The importance of this conservation legislation is clear – forests absorb carbon dioxide, increase soil health, prevent flooding, provide habitat to animals, and filter water. Indeed, Smart Growth Maryland has successfully worked in support of several pieces of legislation strengthening county-wide forest conservation, including in Howard and Anne Arundel Counties.

Learn more about SMart Growth Maryland

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Elly Colmers Cowan · Director of Advocacy

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