Region Forward Blog

Maryland Passes Landmark Forest Legislation

Apr 16, 2013

Steven Koehn Director/State Forester at Maryland DNR Forest Service Co-Chair American Forest Foundation (AFF) Woodlands Operating Committee and member AFF Board of Trustees

Maryland’s General Assembly recently passed the Forest Preservation Act of 2013 which now awaits the Governor’s signature.

As a result of former iterations of this bill the Department of Natural Resources and Maryland’s Sustainable Forestry Council recommended a “no net forest loss” definition of 40 percent state tree canopy land cover—a definition based on satellite imagery of existing tree canopy.

This exciting new legislation establishes new and expands existing incentives and reforestation tools to help private landowners local governments and the state maintain its current tree canopy improve water quality and support community sustainability through forests and trees.

Trees and forests are extremely important to the environmental economic and societal well-being of Maryland. The benefits of forestland and urban tree canopy include raw material for natural resourced based industries renewable energy wildlife habitat climate moderation higher property values aesthetics and recreational opportunities.

Retaining and expanding forestland is an essential cost-effective way to reduce nutrient and greenhouse gas pollution and help restore local streams rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Forests protect water quality by absorbing pollution from the air and capturing filtering and retaining pollutants in runoff. Forest conservation is essential for meeting nutrient reduction and water quality goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreements and will be critical for achieving no net loss of forest.

Maryland’s forests and these benefits are threatened by relentless development pressure. Over the last 58 years Maryland lost more than 450000 acres of forestland averaging 7500 acres annually due to development.

As forestland is converted to non-forest use the benefits those forests provided are lost and our progress in improving the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality is compromised.

We all know that good forestry promotes positive benefits including water quality improvement carbon sequestration wildlife habitat enhancement and the restoration of biodiversity and the creation of rural wealth through vibrant local natural resource based economies.

Now our Maryland administration and legislators publicly recognize this too. I hope other states will take the lead in passing forestry legislation to support sustainable management of our trees and forests.

Cross-posted at the American Forest Foundation blog. For more information on this legislation click here.

This post is part of The Yardstick’s second annual Earth Month blog series. During the month of April we are highlighting news and events related to the environment climate change and energy.

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