Innovative Bill Passed in Maryland

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On April 5th the Maryland General Assembly passed the Forest Preservation Act of 2013; HB 706, stating Maryland will have to maintain its current 40% of the state covered by tree canopy. The “no net forest  loss” is a first in the nation providing a pathway for Maryland’s future tree and forest resources. Steven Koehn, Maryland State Forester, provided the substantial support needed to help pass the bill. In addition to the “no net forest loss” the bill supports the State Reforestation Law that aids family–owned forests, assures local Forest Conservation Act fees go to tree planting and conservation, and doubles the income tax credit for forest management activities for family owned forestlands. 

The following FAQ section was copied from “Maryland’s General Assembly Passes Landmark Legislation: First State in Nation to Establish a Policy of No Net Loss of Forest and a Statewide Tree Canopy Goal” Written by Steven W. Koehn, Maryland State Forester

How was the 40% no net loss of forest / tree canopy goal created and what happens if we don’t meet the goal?

This policy goal was recommended by Maryland’s Sustainable Forestry Council based on satellite imagery of our existing tree canopy, which is 40%. With the incentives for voluntary tree planting, targeting residential turf, in House Bill 706, Maryland is on track to meet the goal. The goal is Statewide tree canopy (both forest and urban tree canopy qualify) and NOT based on individual local county or municipality boundaries. Section 7 of the bill directs the Department to convene a comprehensive stakeholder group (including local gov’t, ag, development, conservation, etc.) to review the statewide forest inventory and make recommendations after 2017.

What is our current forest / tree loss?
 
In FY 2011 Maryland gained a net 64 acres of tree canopy (1,644 acres were lost / developed and 1,708 acres were replanted). In FY 2012 Maryland lost 727 acres of tree canopy (1,421 acres were lost / developed and 694 acres were replanted).

What is the Statewide forest inventory and how is the data derived?

The inventory assesses tree canopy cover. Future assessments and calculations of tree canopy cover will be done using aerial imagery via the National Agricultural Imagery Project (NAIP). This one meter resolution imagery is available every 2 to 3 years and can be readily used to calculate forest and tree cover and assess our success in achieving no net loss of forests.

Why does the bill direct MDP, DNR, etc. to provide local jurisdictions with guidelines and technical assistance on policies and standards to prevent the loss of forest land and urban tree canopy? (Section4)
 
This section of the legislation implements a recommendation of the Sustainable Forestry Council supported by the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO). The existing models and guidelines document were drafted in 1993 under former Governor Schaeffer, have not been updated since then, and pre-date the inclusion of agricultural and forest resources as defined sensitive areas by the General Assembly in 2009. The guidelines help ensure that local governments have the tools and technical assistance needed to adequately include forests within sensitive area elements of their comprehensive plans.

Will this bill result in loss of farmland due to tree planting efforts?

The incentives for voluntary tree planting within HB 706 are designed to targeting residential turf. A total of 1 million acres of residential turf has been identified as potential areas for voluntary tree planting. The Maryland Farm Bureau and the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts testified that they had no concerns with the legislation as amended. Section 6 of the legislation specifically protects prime agricultural lands and makes clear that the no net loss of forest policy shall not be implemented to incentivize tree planting on agricultural land.

Who is on the Sustainable Forestry Council?
 
The current membership of the Sustainable Forestry Council includes: 2 local government representatives; 2 conservation representatives; a farmer; an arborist; 1 timber industry representative; 1 large private forestland property owner; and a local forestry board representative.

Why is a 5-year maintenance agreement required for the stream restoration project exemption to the Forest Conservation Act?
 
This language is consistent with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Department of Environment permit conditions for these types of projects (stream restoration / bank stabilization, etc.). This ensures access to the property for water quality monitoring and permit enforcement as well as provides some guarantee that trees re-planted (due to the project having to remove trees to get equipment down to the stream) will be cared for adequately to survive or be replanted if they do not survive.