Montgomery County, MD (January 4, 2013) – Just outside Washington, DC , Montgomery County legislators are looking at new options to strengthen the urban tree canopy. Transportation planners have traditionally seen street trees as a safety hazard, but today there are multiple efforts to add more street trees—and reap the benefits. The County Council has introduced two new pieces of legislation aimed at protecting trees, including requiring property owners to replace any trees cut down, and permits for work on a public street that might damage a tree.
Multiple efforts are in the works to add more street trees in Montgomery County, MD. This past fall, they introduced the “shades of Green” program to provide free shade trees and two years of care to eligible property owners in downtown areas. So far, 30 new trees have been planted.
They have also worked with nonprofit groups, including Conservation Montgomery and ACTrees member Casey trees to organize tree plantings. Many of these efforts have been undermined by poor tree maintenance, especially after heavy storms when residents complained that the utility company was being too aggressive about taking down trees and impacting resident quality of life.
In response, after various attempts at legislation, the County Council most recently introduced two new bills to protect street trees. The first (Bill 35-12) would require property owners to pay into a fund dedicated to replace any trees that are removed. The second (Bill 41-12) would require a permit to do work in a public street that might damage a tree. A public hearing is set for later in January on the proposed legislation.
So far, the legislation has the backing of local conservation and tree nonprofits, but has received some push back from local home builders. But the Council hopes to strike a balance as urban areas grow and the tension between the build environment and the natural environment comes in to play.