Maryland's Forest Conservation Act: Five Years Of Forest Conservation (presentation)

HONECZY, MARIAN ROSSLER* and Jonathan Chapman

The Maryland Forest Conservation Act of 1991 (FCA) was enacted to protect the forests of Maryland by making the identification and protection of forests and other sensitive areas an integral part of the development review permitting process. It is administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service (DNR FS), but implemented by both state and local governments. The primary objective of the FCA is to minimize loss of forest land from development and ensure that priority areas for forest retention and forest planting are identified and protected prior to development. These priority areas include large contiguous forest blocks, steep slopes and erodible soils, and areas adjacent to streams and wetlands.

The DNR FS has analyzed the first five year's of data collected through counties' annual reports to determine the amounts of existing forest retained, existing forest cleared and planted in connection to land development. During the time frame of this analysis, 36,397 ac of forest were reviewed for development purposes statewide. Potentially, without the FCA, a majority of that forest would have been lost and little if any replanted. However, 22,508 ac of forest have been retained, and 4,313 ac of forest planted, while 12,210 ac of existing forest have been cleared. In many instances, more forest (14,612ac or 120% more) has been retained then required by the law. The net result is that Maryland counties have reduced the amount of forest lost to development, and thus maintained a key factor in the protection of the Chesapeake Bay.