MoCo Planning Department Says 240 Acres of Forest Have Been Conserved in Past Two Years

Data shows county efforts to prevent deforestation have preserved 12,000 acres in past 27 years

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The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday reviewed data about forest conservation that showed more than 200 acres of trees in the county were conserved in fiscal 2017 and 2018.

In accordance with the state Forest Conservation Act, each time a development plan is presented to the board, it must undergo a review to determine its impact on green space in the proposed area of construction, and in the past two years, forest conservation plans accounted for 106.8 acres of forest cleared, 53.3 acres of forest planted and 240 acres of existing forest protected.

Since the Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1991, 12,223.6 acres of forest throughout Montgomery County have been preserved, according to Thursday’s report.

The Forest Conservation Act is meant to slow, rather than stop, the loss of forest, a planning department staffer said during the presentation to the board.

Sometimes, forest conservation requirements can’t be met at a development site, so developers are allowed to contribute to forest mitigation banks. The bank locations are approved by the planning department and total forest mitigation bank transactions at four locations in the past two fiscal years totaled approximately 67 acres.

Also in place is a forest conservation fund that is subsidized by developers that contribute to meet forest mitigation requirements when on-site planting is impractical. The planning department uses the fees to hire contractors to purchase, plant and maintain young trees in areas where weakened or dying ash trees in county parks have created forest gaps.

The forest conservation fund is also used to meet urban tree canopy goals, allowing staff to plant 38 trees in central business districts in fiscal 2017 and 2018 in Bethesda, Wheaton and Silver Spring.

The board on Thursday authorized the data be transmitted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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