In one of the most shortsighted official actions in recent memory, the late and unlamented Frederick County Board of County Commissioners decided in 2011 to eliminate the requirement that each acre of forest destroyed by new development needed to be replaced by another acre elsewhere in the county.

As a result, Frederick County lost 480 acres of prime forest between 2012 and 2019.

Now, County Executive Jan Gardner has proposed restoring the old rule about reforestation. It is a goal worth supporting, and our only question is why has this taken so long.

Go to the site of any new development around the county and — if you were at all familiar with the terrain before building began — you will probably be shocked at the change.

The massive developments surrounding Oakdale High School near New Market might be one of the worst disruptions.

In fact, in announcing her new initiative, Gardner said she remembered getting letters from students who were distraught about the number of trees being cut down for new homes near Oakdale High.

It is truly an astonishing sight. Vast tracts of land were completely denuded of trees. The school, which once sat almost alone on a promontory overlooking west toward the city of Frederick, is now surrounded by a complete neighborhood.

Gardner said her proposed reforestation legislation would protect the county’s environmental resources — and not a moment too soon.

The current County Council is far more environmentally conscious than the old Board of County Commissioners, and probably more inclined to restore the forest requirements than the first council with whom Gardner served from 2014 to 2018.

The council is already considering a resolution committing the county to ambitious goals toward reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change. The resolution, introduced by council members Kai Hagen and Jessica Fitzwater, sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

The proposed resolution is gaining public support. Dozens of county residents filled the first-floor hearing room of Winchester Hall one recent evening, demonstrating their backing for the bill.

In addition to those ambitious goals, the bill would establish an ad hoc committee called the “Climate Emergency Mobilization Workgroup,” made up of local scientists and county officials. The group would take up to a year to submit recommendations to the council about how to combat climate change.

Protecting the forest of the county from further degradation will doubtless be an important element in the fight to reduce climate change.

“My proposal will protect what our community values, our forest cover, our environmental resources and our rich history, before any new development is approved, so we can ensure a bright future for Frederick County,” Gardner said at her announcement.

This bill deserves the support of the community and the council. We cannot sit idly by and watch as more precious trees are pulled down to make way for houses without any replacements being planted.

It will add to the cost of new housing, but it is a price we cannot afford to refuse to pay.

(25) comments

jsklinelga

This program seems to be pure in concept and for a good cause. Only one problem. It is designed by the government and implemented by the government. In the late 1990's I made a killing off placing 30 acres in the Forest Banking System. Much to the detriment of a small company that had to pay me a fortune so they could expand space and parking. They are no longer in business.

I mean no disrespect to the very well intended people designing the program and the ones supporting the program. The worrisome fact is that the people designing the program do not have a real life grasp of the detrimental impacts of the program.

hgiii123

How about the folks designing the programs actually DO HAVE A GRASP ON REAL LIFE IMPACTS! Specifically, this is a No NET Loss piece of legislation. Developers take out an acre of MATURE FOREST, they must replace it with an acre. Unfortunately, they get to replace it with an acre of NEWLY PLANTED "forest," which pails in comparison to what the mature forest they often clear cut, as clear cutting and grading is cheaper and easier to facilitate development. As to the price that those must pay to "replace," that's set by free and open market pricing via those who hold acreage in the County Forest Banking program competing against each other in the sale thereof. I submit that if the company you're speaking of went out of business, it was not due to them having to pay for FRO replacement acreage, but rather other conditions; the implication that FRO replacement acreage was the culprit is disingenuous at best, and grossly misleading (i.e., cause was gov't over-reach).

sue1955

hgiii, thank you for pointing out that replacement of mature trees with newly planted ones is the problem. It would take many years for the new ones to become mature. It doesn't do much for the wildlife that mature years provide, either, in addition to the positives of buffering considerable noise, nice breezes and helping to clean the air. I remember what a negative in terms of air quality when I lived in the Wellington Trace area. Once trees were cut down to make way for the New Design Road expansion/development, the air quality went down noticeably and wildlife was displaced.

jsklinelga

hgiii123

Your objection to my concern seems to focus on an anger at developers. Actually I could not agree with you more. How does an acre of newly planted trees match an acre of mature forest with a matured ecosystem.? Or how does preserving two acres of trees already in a conservation area replace one acre of mature trees? But in the past this did not just effect large developers. It impacted everyone with a building project. Even expanding small businesses

I must admit I do not know how the new FRO guidelines will be written. But i do know the old ones yielded many complaints and not just from developers. But I guess my real concern was summed up best by you":

" Unfortunately, they get to replace it with an acre of NEWLY PLANTED "forest," which pails in comparison to what the mature forest they often clear cut," You must admit this program is woefully inadequate of correcting the problem but it looks "tree-mendous."

DickD

You admit you are a ripoff artist, Jim?

sue1955

As the article asks, "why has it taken so long?" I didn't hear Gardner complaining about development all along, except when it serves her purpose (election time coming?). What's with this ad hoc committee? Nonsense. What exactly has to be decided? All these studies, task groups, committees (they are all the same thing) are nothing but bureaucratic delaying tactics. They are all make-work projects. They are "window dressing" designed to make people think that politicians/officials care.

hayduke2

Wow, kind of a bitter post. Why?

sue1955

No hidden agenda, hay. I'm familiar with bureaucracy and the game-playing.

jsklinelga

sue1955

Not to cast a negative light on the Council;s good intentions but I must agree with you about the game playing. I remember talking with Steven O;Phillips a planner who helped me with my project. We were shocked that the FRO rules were changed to allow Forest Banking in conservation areas. If my memory serves me correctly this was done to facilitate a building project for the town of Middleton. This allowed for a significant reduction in costs. I remember joking with Steven that Frederick City could profit greatly by placing areas of the watershed in the program. That undercut entirely the purpose of the program from which a lot of people county wide suffered financially.

eastmoonrabbit

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TomWheatley

Actually, rather spot on. How many 'studies' have been made over the last few decades concerning I-270 traffic? Usually coming up with the same results (monorail, too expensive, oh gosh if we had the funding ...) and the net result is the can gets kicked to the next political cycle.

FrederickFan

It's taken so long because the last county council wouldn't support it when Gardner proposed it. This council hopefully will support it. Gardner has always opposed sprawl and residential development that overcrowds schools. Blaine and the guys zoned land for 20,000 houses and signed contracts so there is no stopping it. Gardner has not added to it and neither has the council. And, by the way, the next county election is in November 2022!

hgiii123

What "took so long" was the Chmelick/Shreve/Delauter/Otis group of obstructionists and pro-developer reps during the last County Council who blocked a RETURN TO THE PRE-2011 legislation, which was weakened by no other than Blaineeeeeee and company!

DickD

Sue, Jan can't run again for CE, because of term limits. So, what she is doing is not for election reasons.

jloo

Tear down the houses, plant trees and pitch tents in the forrest. We only have seven years left according to Bernie so there is no time to waste. We are facing an EXISTENTIAL THREAT here, people. Wake up!!!

PS..a state wide ban on releasing balloons was just passed so that may buy us a few hours on the seven years.

hayduke2

Sad post!

RPK21774

take a look at the clear cutting that took place off of Gas House Pike, acre after acre not a tree left standing, absolutely disgusting.

ValerieDale

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gabrielshorn2013

Great effort Ms. Gardner. The impediments to planting trees that HOAs put in place should also be lifted so that these developments can help with the reforestation plan.

hgiii123

Important distinction: While street trees are important and beneficial on many levels, and I promote, they do NOT represent, and should not qualify as, “replacement for forest cover,” as the development community would have you believe and who want counted as forest replacement in the calculations (along with decorative shrubs). It does contribute to tree “canopy,” but not equate to “forest replacement.” Crafty devils those developers and their lobbyists! Bravo, CE Gardner! Now that the impediments to sound FRO policy are gone (Otis, Chmelik, Delaughter, Shreve), and sensible, thoughtful, intelligent, and conscious representatives occupy the dias, we can finally realize FORWARD PROGRESS! Keep up the good work!

gabrielshorn2013

Oh, absolutely agree hgii123. I'm not talking about small shrubs, paperbirches, dogwoods, or any small dwarf ornamental tree like that. I'm talking about replacing the natural forest cover, such as oak, beech, hemlock, hickory, etc.

hayduke2

hgii - agree and would add that the replacement trees have to be of a given caliper size. Is there any plan for deer protection and maintenance until they are established and a viable size.

TomWheatley

My office mate lived in a development where the streets were lined with Bradford pears. Looked great for a few years until they all got to the same age and most went down during a high wind.

FrederickFan

Gardner should be applauded for this effort. The developers will complain, like they always do.

KarlBickel

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