More Protections for Forests in Potomac

On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, the Montgomery County Council unanimously voted to update its Forest Conservation Law (Bill 25-22) which will guarantee more forests are protected from development.

It's the first significant update to the law in 30 years. The bill, many years in the making, was recommended by the County Planning Department and backed by the Montgomery County Forest Coalition, a network of two dozen environmental organizations and community leaders. 

According to Potomac Conservancy, the updated Forest Conservation Law will:  

  • * Reduce deforestation by requiring more trees to be replanted when removed for development. 

  • * Protect the Potomac River and local streams because trees stabilize stream banks and filter polluted runoff – the fastest-growing source of water pollution in our region. 

  • * Mitigate climate effects by protecting tree canopy that captures carbon emissions, absorbs excess rainwater, reduces flooding, and cools stream temperatures.  

“This is a historic day for tree protections in Montgomery County. On Tuesday, councilmembers voted not just for trees, but for clean air, wildlife habitat, responsible climate preparedness, and safe streams and drinking water sources,” said Anna Mudd, MoCo Forest Coalition co-leader and Senior Director of Policy for Potomac Conservancy. “This is an important shift towards a healthier Montgomery County and Potomac River.”

The Council’s actions come at a critical moment as the community faces mounting threats from deforestation and the climate crisis. A statewide forestry study conducted by the Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology found that Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties accounted for 46% of forest loss in all of Maryland in recent years. 

“The well-being of our communities and needed resilience in the face of climate change are inextricably tied to the health of our forests,.” said Caroline Taylor, Executive Director, Montgomery Countryside Alliance.

Matt Stegman, Maryland Staff Attorney, Chesapeake Bay Foundation said, “Forests are so important for improving the health of Chesapeake Bay and mitigating climate change. As Montgomery County moves forward on this issue, along with other counties that have recently strengthened local forest laws, we continue to urge state lawmakers to bolster the state’s outdated forest law, which is enabling ongoing statewide forest loss.” 

The updated law includes "no-net loss" provisions. We want to thank everyone who wrote in to support this critical bill and cheers to our tenacious partners and Montgomery County Planning staff.

We know forest health is tied to overall ecosystem and human health - meaning much like the roots of established forests the impacts of this one vote run deep.

Residents can get involved in reforesting Montgomery County. See Reforest Montgomery 

This spring, the Montgomery Countryside Alliance will be planting its 5000th tree through the Re-Leaf Program

There are tree programs for downcounty residents too.