A recent letter to the editor (The integrity of our government, Oct. 1) presented an overly simplistic and inaccurate portrait of both the role and the motivation of the Frederick County Forestry Board and the Maryland Forest Service. The letter characterized both as being motivated by greed with little or no regard for the environment.

While it’s tempting to ignore such an unfounded charge, because of the public nature of the accusation we decided to respond. First, we would like to thank the author for giving us an excuse to share with the public the different facets of what we do for the community. We would also like to applaud the author for his apparent concern for the environment and the preservation of the forest land base. The Frederick County Forestry Board has similar concerns.

Our mission statement is as follows: The primary mission of the Frederick County Forest Conservancy Board is to promote the conservation, stewardship, and sustainable use of the forest resources in this county, both urban and rural, through advocacy and education of sound forest management principles. We accomplish this through our workshops, website, and partnerships.

Maryland’s Forest District Conservancy Boards were established in 1943. Each of Maryland’s counties and Baltimore city has a Forestry Board. All members of the forestry boards are volunteers with the exception of the executive secretary who is usually a member of the Maryland Forest Service. Members of the boards come from all walks of life with various interests, biases, and life experiences. The Frederick County board is engaged in many hands-on, educational, and advocacy projects throughout the county including tree planting, Community Green events, educational programs, urban and community forestry activities, and traditional forest management programs. We maintain a website, conduct seminars, developed a walking tree tour of Frederick city and produce the weekly Nature Notes column. Another very important function is reviewing logging site plans in County Resource Conservation Zones.

The Forestry Board is one of four agencies that review logging permit applications in Resource Conservation Zones. Forestry Board input was mandated soon after the Ski College Mountain controversy that occurred in the late 1980’s. As part of our responsibility the Forestry Board reviews logging plans submitted by the applicant or their agent. As part of that review the board evaluates the cutting regime based on the landowner’s stated objectives. The board also looks for sensitive environmental areas such as streams or wetlands and makes note of these areas. The board understands that the site plan is also reviewed by the Soil Conservation District, Frederick County Department of Environmental Compliance, and Frederick County Planning and Zoning Office, so we let those professionals take care of their designated tasks. In essence, our board tries to ensure that the landowner’s rights and interests are being protected and assumes the designated professionals will enforce their laws and regulations.

Over the last 30 years, the Frederick Board has inspected hundreds of sites, providing a unique, long-range perspective. The notion that most logging operations are conducted by wealthy uncaring individuals who simply want to pad their bank account is simply not true. Most applicants are hardworking residents who care deeply about their property, have already made a sizable time or financial investment in their land, take the advice of competent professionals, or they have specific reasons for conducting the harvest such as significant mortality from insects, disease, or storm damage. Proceeds of these sales are used to buy farm equipment, add an addition to the home, fund a college education, retirement, or they are funneled back in the property. Finally, conducting logging operations following sustainable forestry practices has a positive effect on future forest conditions. Some board members have visited the same site 2-3 times over the last 30 years.

The Frederick County Forestry Board conducts regular monthly meetings that are open to the public. (However, like most other organizations we have had to adapt during this age of COVID.) For years, we have had a county employee on the board until she moved out of Maryland and we have also had various County Commissioners attend our meetings as well. All are welcome and all input is valued. Please feel free to join us to add your expertise and concerns to the accomplishment of our mission. You can learn more about our board by visiting our website at: frederick.forestryboard.org

Keith Schoonover is chairman of the Frederick County Forestry Board.

(2) comments

mrnatural1

Very well written and diplomatic LTE. It's good to have clarification as to the distribution of responsibilities.

I also read (and commented on) "The integrity of our government", by John Gehman of Adamstown, Oct 1, 2020.

John's letter does come across as an attack on the forestry board.

One thing John did not say however, is that the forestry board is, "motivated by greed". What he wrote was, "...property owners that have money, but look to expand their financial portfolio by selling their trees to the highest bidder. This Forestry Board is facilitating this agenda."

"Facilitating this agenda" is of course completely different from being "motivated by greed". The only people making money when trees are sold are the landowners and the logging company.

It's fair to say John's anger is misguided -- it should be directed primarily toward the landowners -- but he did not say the forestry board was "motivated by greed".

The following, from this letter by Keith, is KEY. Everyone should be made aware of this:

" The board understands that the site plan is also reviewed by the Soil Conservation District, Frederick County Department of Environmental Compliance, and Frederick County Planning and Zoning Office, so we let those professionals take care of their designated tasks. In essence, our board tries to ensure that the landowner’s rights and interests are being protected and assumes the designated professionals will enforce their laws and regulations."

In other words, to quote John Mellencamp:

"Called my old friend schepman up to auction off the land

He said john its just my job and I hope you understand

Hey calling it your job ol hoss sure dont make it right

But if you want me to Ill say a prayer for your soul tonight"

~

I'm not happy about clear-cutting -- or "selective logging" which still tears up the forest -- but sadly, the fact is that landowners are (in most cases) abiding by the law. There are numerous examples of actions that are morally/ethically/environmentally questionable but legal. When money is involved, a landowner's moral compass can be thrown off.

We can get mad at landowners who demolish their woodland for cash, but the fact is that many people are greedy, selfish, short-sighted, and/or stupid. They will do what they perceive to be in their best interest -- particularly if it is legal. So those who are concerned with environmental stewardship would be better off using their energy to fight for stricter laws regarding logging. I say that as someone who lives in an RC zoned area, has several acres of woods, and could make thousands of dollars tomorrow by selling just the ash trees off our property (according to a state forester).

gary4books

Nice to know the facts.

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