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Environmental Report: Two Tree Bills Introduced

— After two years of waiting, the County Executive has sent to the Council an urban tree bill – Bill 25-12, the Montgomery County Urban Canopy Bill. The purpose of the legislation is to discourage the common practice of clearing trees from small lots during redevelopment. Unlike the County Forest Conservation Law, in effect since 1992, which addresses protection of forest stands on large lots, this bill focuses on the continued canopy depletion in urban areas where the loss of individual and small stands of trees has been both significant and cumulative. It requires that fees be collected whenever tree canopy is disturbed on any lot where a sediment control permit is required. The fees are paid directly into a mitigation fund and used to plant native trees in the same sub-watershed where canopy is lost. In some areas of the County canopy, coverage is down to just eight percent, and continuing to decline.

A second piece of legislation, Council Bill 41-12, the Montgomery County Streets and Roadside Tree Protection Bill, introduced by Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich, will require a county permit for any work in the County Right-of-Way (the strip of land between the street and any private property line) that will damage trees. The Department of Permitting Services (DPS) would work with the Chief of Tree Maintenance in the County Department of Transportation (DOT) to determine if a tree can be saved, and if not, the applicant would contribute to a tree fund to insure replacement. A Public Hearing before the County Council on both bills is scheduled for Jan. 17.