Forest Conservation and Trees

Forest Conservation Program

Forest ConservationThe Forest Conservation Law [PDF] aims to save, maintain and plant forested areas for the benefit of county residents and future generations. Trees and forests filter groundwater, slow stormwater runoff, help alleviate flooding and supply wildlife habitat. Trees cleanse the air, offset the heat generated by development and reduce energy needs. And in a less tangible sense, trees improve quality of life in a community by providing recreation and visual appeal.

Since 1992, the Planning Department has approved development applications that have permanently protected some 9,000 acres of existing forest and 2,000 acres of newly planted forests. Environmental planners have mapped more than 3,000 forest conservation easements across Montgomery County to inform the public about how to respect easements and protect natural resources. Locate areas under easement.

Note:  The above mentioned “Forest Conservation Law” link is in effect until Sunday, February 25, 2018. The New “Forest Conservation Law” takes effect on Monday, February 26, 2018.  The new Forest Conservation Law link can be found under the “Forest Conservation and Trees” Tab – Latest News.

Witness a potential forest conservation violation? Call 301-495-1314.

Are you subject to the Forest Conservation Law?

Owners of properties greater than 40,000 square feet who are required to submit a development application, or conditional use (special exception) application, or to obtain a sediment control permit must comply with Forest Conservation Law provisions. Depending upon the amount of forest proposed to be removed, the property owner may qualify for an exemption from submitting a forest conservation plan.

Check out our flow charts to find out whether our conservation provisions apply to you. Answering these sets of questions will help you determine your next steps related to conserving our forests. View our decision tree (PDF) for applicants of development plans, mandatory referrals, conditional uses, and/or sediment control permits or view our single-lot decision tree (PDF).

Anyone with property greater than 40,000 square feet in Montgomery County must complete a natural resources inventory, a complete picture of the natural resources to identify streams, slopes, critical habitat and other features. We also ask for a detailed summary of existing forest and its characteristics. Results of your application will determine whether you need to file a forest conservation plan.

View our tips on planting and caring for trees.

Latest News

Changes to the Forest Conservation Law will become effective on February 26, 2018. They streamline the review process, codify practices and clarify portions of the county code, including:

  1. Clarifying that Administrative and Minor Subdivisions are subject to the FCL.
  2. Creating a process in which the Planning Director can approve Forest Conservation Plans associated with Administrative Subdivisions.
  3. Clarifying that Conditional Uses (formerly Special Exceptions) are subject to the FCL.
  4. Requiring Natural Resources Inventory/Forest Stand Delineations be submitted prior to the submission of a Sketch Plan for a project and approved before the Sketch Plan is acted upon by the Planning Board.
  5. Creating a 90-day time limit for applicants to resubmit revisions to Natural Resource Inventories/Forest Stand Delineations. After 90 days, the plan is automatically withdrawn, unless an extension is requested under extenuating circumstances.
  6. Clarifying that the maintenance period for all forest conservation plantings in Special Protection Areas is 5 years. The maintenance period outside of Special Protection Areas remains at 2 years.
  7. Changing the modification to an “existing developed property” exemption that allows for certain residential uses to qualify for an exemption from submitting a forest conservation plan.


Reforestation Projects

Rock Creek Reforestation Aerial MapSince 2008, the Planning Department has initiated major reforestation projects in Montgomery County stream valley parks to improve water quality and habitat.

Large-scale planting programs take place on selected natural areas, such as Reddy Branch and Rock Creek and Watts Branch, funded by fees from developers unable to meet forest requirements on their site. Volunteers are always needed to help maintain young forests.

M-NCPPC staff reforested four areas along Rock Creek near Jones Mill Road, Beach Drive and East-West Highway.

Last Updated: August 8, 2018