Montgomery County is long overdue in passing two critical pieces of legislation: an urban canopy bill aimed toward stopping senseless removal of trees on individual residential and commercial lots being developed, and Bill 41-12 geared toward protecting and replacing trees along our county streets. Both bills should be supported in concept since their intent is laudable.
It is unfortunate that a few opponents of these bills are attempting to distort the truth and cast the tree legislation as a violation of personal property rights or as a “tax.” Neither tree bill is a tax or an invasion of property rights. And neither bill prevents anyone in the county from building or making home improvements. [“Tree bills invasive to property rights,” Jan. 23]
As part of the legislative process, the public weighed in on Jan. 17 at a Montgomery County Council hearing. A majority urged the council to pass legislation to encourage saving mature trees, replanting on sites where they are cut down, and providing an exemption for parks which already have tree stewardship programs.
Large swaths of our county are becoming barren heat islands as a result of development and human pressures unfavorable to tree growth and survival. Although countywide we can boast almost a 50 percent tree canopy cover, many downcounty neighborhoods have less than 10 percent canopy — far less than what is needed to sustain our quality of life.
Mature trees not only clean our air and water, they create communities worth living in, cool our homes and increase their value.
These long-awaited bills finally present Montgomery County with an opportunity to slow loss of trees in urban areas and replace them, when they must be removed, to accommodate a development or the installation of a new driveway. Despite what opponents claim, neither bill aims to — or will — stop development. Rather, the bills are designed to ensure that trees that are lost will be replaced. And tree preservation must be a goal.
We must conserve the work horses of the environment — mature shade trees — and replant aggressively when they are removed. If these bills are revised with Planning Department amendments and public input, [the bills] will complement the existing Forest Conservation Law. It’s time to deal with an ever-changing tree canopy that is never static and always in need of replenishment.
Caren Madsen, Conservation Montgomery
Dolores Milmoe, Audubon Naturalist Society
Caroline Taylor, Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Hedrick Belin, Potomac Conservancy
Mark Buscaino, Casey Trees
Ginny Barnes, West Montgomery County Citizens Association
Kirsten Johnson, Maryland Native Plant Society