The county’s proposed tree bill balances common sense with the common good and, if amended, will help us all invest wisely in our most valuable form of natural capital: our trees.
Mature trees help filter water, clean the air, prevent erosion, provide cool shade in hot summers and conserve energy — all “goods and services” that contribute to a thriving economy and to our well-being.
Right now, we often bulldoze away trees and spend down this valuable natural capital without planning sufficiently for the future. The county has recognized the problem and has taken a step toward establishing a remedy: a fee on tree canopy removal, to be invested mainly in the planting of new trees. There is no limit on the trees or area that can be removed or disturbed.
Planting new trees is essential. We also need incentives to protect mature trees, which are more valuable than seedlings and can take generations to replace. It’s time to launch an urban forest conservation easement program for owners of residential and commercial property lots. The program could be similar to the county’s flagship transferable development rights program, which allows farmers to place land under easement and sell their “development rights.” The bill should also set an urban forest canopy goal in order to measure progress and success.
Saving and investing in our trees will improve the quality of life for all who work and live here.
Christine Real de Azua, Chevy Chase