Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today celebrated National Arbor Day at a tree planting event initiated by Conservation Montgomery. The event was held at the Bethesda Library where participants planted a yellowwood tree and a native white dogwood. Leggett took the opportunity to promote the passage of Bill 35-12, the Trees and Tree Canopy Conservation Law, which is currently before the County Council.
“Montgomery County has a lot of trees – and I would like to keep it that way,” said Leggett. “Although trees cover over half of our County, our urban tree canopy is now being endangered by new development patterns that are redeveloping our older, urban areas. My Bill 35-12 proposes creation of a dedicated tree replacement fund to replace tree canopy that is significantly disturbed during development. This legislation is a balanced, commonsense approach to ensure that future generations can enjoy the pleasure and privilege of a robust and vibrant tree canopy.”
Bill 35-12 was introduced in the Montgomery County Council on November 27, 2012. The bill would fund the planting of new trees to replace what is being lost through new development and redevelopment of existing neighborhoods. Redevelopment, particularly in the older parts of the County, is significantly reducing the number of trees.
“In replanting and restoring our tree canopy, we have the opportunity not just to create cooling shade for urbanizing areas, but importantly, to naturalize our landscapes to create sustainable biodiverse environments where birds and animals can thrive,” said Department of Environmental Protection Director Bob Hoyt.
During development, if tree canopy is significantly disturbed, a fee would be assessed to pay for planting new trees to replace those that are lost. The bill would apply when a land development permit is required from the County’s Department of Permitting Services. The bill:
• Does not prevent residents from trimming or removing one or two trees;
• Does not prevent development on a resident’s own property; and
• Does not apply to agricultural activities.
The Tree Canopy Bill will apply to any activity that requires a sediment control permit, including new residential or commercial building; the cutting of 5,000 square feet or more of tree canopy (which is considered ground disturbance); or 100 cubic yards or more of earth movement.
Fees will be used to establish new, replacement trees as close to disturbed areas as possible. The legislation acknowledges that many sites cannot accommodate canopy trees after development and sets up a process for determining where additional trees will be planted, such as along streets, in backyards, in parking lots, and other areas in the community which have lost trees.
Trees contribute to the economic and social vitality of a community. They clean the air and water, reduce the cost of cooling and heating homes and businesses and provide habitat for wildlife. Equally well documented is that trees increase the value of neighborhoods; shopping areas with trees generate more revenues; and studies show trees even reduce domestic violence and aggressive driving.
“As the Council further deliberates on Bill 35-12, my staff will continue to engage in discussions with them and the community on how to improve the bill,” said Leggett. “However, the bottom line is this – we cannot take our trees for granted and Bill 35-12 will help ensure that more trees are planted for the enjoyment of future generations.”
For 17 years, Montgomery County has been honored as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Foundation for its demonstrated commitment to caring for and managing public trees.
More information about Bill 35-12 is available on the County Council’s website. Scroll down to Bill 35-12.
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