The new manual is the strongest in Maryland, will increase forest retention and replanting and improve safeguards for the environment

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball pre-filed legislation to improve the Forest Conservation Manual, which would implement the outdated Forest Conservation Act and be the strongest update in Maryland. This “how-to” guide describes in detail how forest conservation should be accomplished during, and after the development process, so that planners and developers have the same standards to reference, resulting in better communication, time saved, and positive forest conservation outcomes.

“For nearly two decades, our Forest Conservation Act remained unchanged. In recent years the Act’s out of date standards lacked real positive environmental impact,” said Ball. “Green infrastructure can no longer be an afterthought – it must be built into how we plan and grow. We must strive to replace trees in the same locations where they are cut. Now, any residential development of more than one acre must retain and replace 75% of trees within the project site. The Forest Conservation Manual will impact our environmental standards for this next important chapter in our local, and global, fight against climate change while preserving forest resources for the benefit of our community.”

The manual was updated to reflect Ball’s recent changes to the Forest Conservation Act, which will ensure County compliance with State law, increase forest retention and replanting, reduce use of fee-in-lieu, and improve safeguards for the environment. The manual includes specific standards and guidelines for:

  • Submission and approval of Forest Conservation Plans;
  • Requirements to explore alternatives when asking for a variance to the law;
  • Forest retention priorities;
  • Reforestation and afforestation calculations, priorities and preferred methods;
  • Legally binding forest conservation agreements and financial security; and
  • Other information necessary to implement the Forest Conservation Act.

The updated manual was drafted by a Technical Advisory Committee, consisting of individuals with expertise in forestry and the forest conservation process. The Department of Planning and Zoning led the drafting, with support from the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Office of Community Sustainability.

The draft manual was available for public comment during a 3-week period review in November and a public meeting was held on November 5, 2020. More than 130 comments from the public were received and considered by DPZ, many of which were already addressed in the manual or were incorporated prior to filing the final manual. The Council will hold a public hearing on the manual on January 19, 2020. Members of the public can testify by signing up here.

The manual implements current law and practices and is not anticipated to result in any fiscal impact to the County. More information is available on the County’s updates to the Forest Conservation Act here.

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Scott E