Forest Conservation Update Passes

December 2019

The Calvin Ball administration spearheaded an update and improvement of forest conservation rules to minimize forest loss during development and strengthen re-planting requirements. The Howard County Forest Conservation Act passed County Council and was signed by County Executive Ball.

The Howard County Forest Conservation Act, which had not been updated since the 1990s, ensures that Howard County is in compliance with state law while strengthening environmental protection. The Maryland Forest Conservation Act was created to minimize the loss of Maryland’s forest resources during land development by making the identification and protection of forests an integral part of the site planning process. These updates will ensure County compliance, increase forest retention and replanting, and improve safeguards for the environment.

The Howard County Forest Conservation Act (CB62-2019):

Quadruples the replanting requirement from 0.25 acres to 1 acre for every acre cleared above the threshold and allows for 0.50 acres to be replanted for every acre cleared above the threshold if the replanting is done within the same 12-digit watershed.

Requires residential developments to meet 75% of their forest conservation obligation on site.

Requires non-residential developments to plant all sensitive features, including a 75′ stream buffer width.

Requires consistency in application of the thresholds across parcels that have different uses by increasing the mixed-use threshold to 20%, the same as residential suburban.

Increases the fees-in-lieu of planting from $0.75 to $1.25 per square foot where there is water and sewer and from $0.95 to $1.50 outside these areas.

Increases the penalty for clearing in violation of the law from $1.20 to $5.00 per square foot.

14 updates to come into compliance with state law including required onsite retention of rare threatened and endangered species, trees on a historic site, and champion and specimen trees.

Adds Green Infrastructure Network as the highest priority replanting area and increases the developer maintenance responsibility agreement to 3 years.

Provides stricter guidelines and standards for the variance (waiver) process by stipulating a 7-part test for qualification and requires all variance decisions be made collectively by the Director of Planning & Zoning, the Administrator of the Office of Community Sustainability, and the Director of Recreation & Parks.