Trees are a natural bulwark against the dangers of global warming, especially when they are grouped in continuous stands called forests. They knock down airborne particulate matter and sequester carbon and nitrogen dioxide — menacing greenhouse gases from tailpipes, smokestacks and buildings. They also are nature’s defense against the “heat island effect” stemming from way too much hardscape (roads, parking lots, roofs) in our cities and suburbs that over-heat our atmosphere, particularly during sunny summer days.
Forests in urban areas are particularly effective as nature’s green infrastructure answer to stormwater management and the need for clean water for marine life. As with rural forestland, urban forests — such as Druid Hill Park in Baltimore — continue to serve as wildlife habitat, assuring a place for nature’s course in addition to humankind’s.
In 1991, the Maryland legislature passed the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) aimed at restoring forests to counteract the effect of larger-scale tree and forest demolition for housing developments and commercial or industrial projects. The FCA currently requires that for every four acres of forest removed, only one acre of trees must be planted in nearby areas or, regionally, as mitigation or reforestation.
Trouble is, the FCA left loopholes or didn’t anticipate the several accountability initiatives necessary for positive forest outcomes. As a result, thousands or more of our best acres (“Priority Forest Areas”) have been cleared, while many hundreds of replacement acres of trees remain unplanted. Since 1991 the net loss of forest land in our state has hit a staggering level of 100,000 acres. And more forest loss is projected by Chesapeake Bay Program models, thus further exposing Marylanders to the human- and wildlife-harming repercussions of global warming.
Read full article: Time to close the loopholes on Md.’s forest conservation law – Baltimore Sun