ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball filed CB64, a tree protection act, to close a loophole in current law and ensure that specimen trees are not removed before the Forest Conservation Act is applied to a development proposal.
The quickest way to change the world is to plant a tree. Trees improve our air quality, water quality, capture carbon, provide habitat, and improve our quality of life. But our trees and forests are only as strong as the policies that protect them, and that’s just what CB64 aims to do. We are dedicated to protecting and preserving our trees and forests with this legislation, which builds on our Forest Conservation Act passed in 2019 – updated for the first time since the 1990s and the strongest forest protection in Maryland.
CB64 focuses on protecting specimen trees on parcels that could be subdivided, by setting the bar at properties of an acre or more. This appropriately targets enforcement on potential developers without creating a new burden for a majority of homeowners tending to their yards.
The bill allows for cutting or clearing of specimen trees when they are dead or diseased, as determined by a certified professional. It exempts cutting or clearing of specimen trees on residential properties under one acre; trees that present an imminent threat; and allows clearing where necessary for an agricultural purpose (i.e. farms).
Penalties include a new replanting requirement; fines up to $1,000 per tree and a 5-year prohibition on subdivision of a property in violations of the new regulations.
This new legislation builds on the Ball Administration’s commitment to creating a clean and sustainable environment in Howard County since taking office. In 2019, County Executive Ball committed Howard County to the “We Are Still In” declaration and made Howard County the first county in the nation to formally accept the United States Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands Challenge, which calls on jurisdictions to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration.
In 2020, County Executive Ball created and proposed the strongest forest conservation law in the State of Maryland to mitigate the loss of natural lands. Now, 75% of trees replaced must be within a development project site and incentives are provided to encourage tree planting in the watershed and other areas that need it the most. Additionally, the Ball Administration has planted more than 50,000 trees since taking office, including giving away more than 4,000 trees for residents to plant on their property.
Earlier this year, County Executive Ball broke ground on Maryland’s largest solar power purchase agreement in Howard County. The agreement will generate a monumental 44,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year which will cover more than 50% of the County’s energy usage and is the equivalent of taking 6,781 cars off the road. The 11 solar projects will be on County-owned and private property, including local businesses and farms.