Maryland Governor Signs Landmark Forest Preservation Law

Annapolis, MD (May 2, 2013) – Governor Martin O’Malley has signed into law ground-breaking legislation that recognizes the value of preserving and caring for forest land and the urban tree canopy. The Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (HB 706) includes a “no-net-loss of forest” policy—maintaining the current state’s 40% tree canopy. It also establishes incentives and reforestation tools to help private landowners, local governments, and the state improve water quality and support community sustainability through forests and trees.

Tree lined street“Healthy forests support our economy, our communities, human health and our natural world,” said Governor O’Malley. “This landmark legislation will ensure we are using the most efficient and sustainable practices, to not only maintain our forests, but strengthen and expand them. It is vital we take the steps today that will ensure a smarter, greener, more sustainable Maryland for the generations of tomorrow.”

The new law will help enhance forestland and urban tree canopy, which will improve air and water quality, moderate climate, add to Maryland’s natural spaces and enhance its beauty, increase property values and provide more recreational opportunities. Trees also provide flood control, wood products, renewable energy and habitat for wildlife.

In addition to the no-net-loss requirements, Maryland’s Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (HB 706) adds a dual sustainability certification of State Forests requirement, and extends tax benefits to more Marylanders who work to increase tree cover on their property.

Until now, landowners could deduct between 10 and 500 acres worth of forestry expenses from their income tax liability. This legislation expands that amount to 3 to 1,000 acres, making more private property owners eligible for tax credits.

Including smaller land areas provides an incentive to convert residential turf to trees, and increase, retain and manage forest cover on these properties. Forest stewardship activities include tree plantings, creating and maintaining forested stream buffers, controlling invasive species, and other best management practices that improve forest health.

The legislation also:

  • Encourages smart growth by exempting redevelopment projects that are on an impervious (nonporous) surface, and in a priority funding area, from being eligible for incentives from the Forest Conservation Act;
  • Requires the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide a statewide forest resource inventory to local jurisdictions at least every 5 years to ensure that local governments have the tools and technical assistance needed to adequately protect tree canopy cover;
  • Increases penalties for individuals that maliciously start wildfires; and
  • Aims to improve Forest Conservation Act compliance.

Source: Maryland DNR New Release: “Governor O’Malley Signs Landmark Forest Legislation” (May 2, 2013)

Related Resources
HB 706 Forest Preservation Act of 2013