In 1992 Howard County adopted the Forest Conservation Act. This was the first regulation that protects and conserves forest resources within the county. The regulation requires developers to retain and leave undisturbed, or plant new forestlands if they will be impacted by development. Through the land development process, if a developer is unable to retain existing or plant new forest within the development, they can pay into the Forest Conservation fee-in-lieu account to meet the forest protection requirement. To comply with these regulations, the Forest Mitigation program was created. 

In addition to the creation of the Forest Mitigation program, the Department of Recreation and Parks has implemented several planting programs to reforest properties that are not in Open Space, including schools, HOA’s and private property. The Department of Recreation and Parks actively seeks grants and partners with other County agencies to support these programs.

Forest Mitigation

The Forest Mitigation Program was implemented in 1996 through a cooperative agreement between the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Recreation and Parks. The program utilizes the fee-in-lieu monies collected from developers to conduct mitigation on Open Space and Parkland throughout the County. Site selection is determined by prioritizing sites using the following criteria: wetlands and stream buffers, flood plains, steep slopes, forest fragmentation, existing uses, visual buffers and existing regulations. 

To view the Forest Conservation Easements layer and for information on individual easements, please visit the County’s Interactive Map.

Turf to Trees Program

The Turf to Trees program was created to help alleviate the damaging effects of stormwater runoff by increasing tree coverage throughout the County. Trees help to abate stormwater runoff by:

  • Reducing water through absorption
  • Slowing precipitation through canopy coverage
  • Binding soil to prevent erosion
  • Reducing water through evaporation and transpiration

The program provides trees and planting services to Howard County property owners with lots of 1.5 to 10 acres in size, free of cost.

To qualify for the program, property owners must commit to receiving and maintaining a minimum of 50 trees. The property owner must care for the trees provided by the County including, but not limited to, watering, shelter maintenance and removal, protecting trees from deer and other pests, as well as invasive species remediation.

The County will assess each property to determine eligibility. A planting plan, including planting boundaries and a tree species list, will be created in collaboration with the property owner. An emphasis will be given to creating a contiguous planting, in which the trees are grouped together. However, non-contiguous plantings will be considered to address specific environmental concerns. Perimeter planting (one row of trees around a property) will not be accepted.

Priority will be given to properties with the following

  • Properties with 40% or less tree canopy coverage (the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that shelter the ground when viewed from above – Howard County staff can assess this remotely).
  • Properties with environmentally sensitive features such as streams or steep slopes. 
  • Properties in or near the Green Infrastucture Network (County staff can determine if your property is within this area).

Planting requirements

  • A minimum order of 50 trees to be planted on a contiguous 1/4 acre