Planning Board approves proposed changes to Montgomery County Forest Conservation Laws to achieve “No Net Loss of Forest”
April 29, 2022
Recommended changes to county code to achieve greater forest planting and forest conservation in Montgomery County
WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), has approved draft amendments to Chapter 22A of the Montgomery County Code (the Forest Conservation Law) and Chapter 22A of the Code of Montgomery County Regulations (the Forest Conservation – Trees Regulations) to transmit to the County Council at its April 28, 2022 meeting. The recommended changes are a product of Montgomery Planning’s No Net Loss of Forest Initiative, which seeks to achieve equal or greater area of forest planted than forest removed on a county-wide level, by projects subject to the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law, while also allowing development to continue moving forward.
The draft amendments to the law and regulations include:
- Increasing the amount of forest that needs to be preserved (forest conservation thresholds) in lower density land use categories, where additional space exists for on-site planting and protection.
- Increasing forest planting (afforestation) requirements in the institutional land use category.
- Increasing reforestation ratios and incentivizing required forest mitigation in the same watershed as the project or in a watershed considered high priority for forest planting or forest preservation.
- Requiring planting of forest in unforested stream valley buffers, with some exceptions, such as if the stream valley buffer is not suitable to establish and retain required forest planting
- Expanding options to create forest ecosystems and increase long-term resilience of planted forests.
The No Net Loss of Forest Initiative began in November 2021 and these recommendations are a product of five stakeholder working group meetings. The working group included representatives from 24 different groups, including non-profits, agency representatives, and the development community. Led by Planning’s Forest Conservation staff, the working group reviewed data, reports, other counties’ recent amendments, and analyzed possible amendments using real projects with Forest Conservation Plans. This initiative aligns with several goals of the Montgomery County Climate Action Plan and Thrive Montgomery 2050, which generally include forest retention and restoration, increasing tree canopy, establishing strategies to protect plant diversity while complementing land use policies such as redevelopment, and improving the survivability of planted forests and trees.
Following the Planning Board’s approval, the recommended changes are being transmitted for introduction to the Montgomery County Council. Additionally, the draft amendments are currently under review by Maryland DNR for compliance with the enabling state Forest Conservation Act of 1991.