Two Bills To Protect Frederick County’s, Forests, Environmental Areas, Historic Resources, Reintroduced

The County Council is expected to discuss them on Tuesday.


Frederick, Md (KM) A bill to revise Frederick County’s forest resource ordinance is being reintroduced. The legislation would restore the requirement that developers who clear away an acre of trees to make way for their projects replant another acre of trees, either on the property being developed, or an off-site location.

County Executive Jan Gardner, whose sponsoring  the bill, said forests are beneficial. “We know that forests absorb water and clean it before it reaches our creeks and streams,” she says. “When we lose an acre of trees, we experience more flooding and that flooding can be deadly, and it can cause costly property damage. We saw first hand how damaging floodwater can be in  2018 with the spring storms that destroyed roadways, damaged homes from our rural valleys into the heart of the downtown city of Frederick.”

Gardner says this requirement for a 1:1 ratio for forest replacement was part of the county’s ordinance for many years. But in 2011, the last Board of County Commissioners weakened this  requirement to the minimum state requirement. She says that led to a loss of 480-acres of trees between 2012 to 2019 without any replacement

According to the County Executive, a developer cleared a large amount of forestland near Oakdale High School, which made a lot nearby residents unhappy. “In that instance, 82-acres of trees were cleared, and citizens really expressed great displeasure with that loss of forest. I even had schoolchildren write letters to me about it,” she said. “But some actually became sad and eventually angry because there was no mitigation of planting of trees elsewhere required that what was in the existing laws.”

She also said there are things the law will not do. “It will not change who the ordinance apply to. Active farms and timber harvesting are exempt from the FRO. So agriculture is exempt. So clearing land for pasture is exempt. It always has been and will remain that way,” says Gardner.

Also, the transfer of land to children, known as child lots, is exempt if less than 20,000 square feet of forest are cleared. The Forest Resource Ordinance, or FRO, applies  only to lots recorded after 1992. Any lots recorded before that time are exempt if  the clearing of forest is limited to 20,000 square feet.

A second bill being reintroduced would require that environmental areas, and historic and cultural resources be identified before a property is rezoned for development. it would require these resources be identified, and ways be developed  to minimize the impact any development would have on these resources.

These two bills were introduced to the County Council in March. But before they could be approved, the COVID-19 pandemic put Council meetings on hold under the stay-at-home requirements, resulting the expiration of both pieces of legislation.

The Council is expected to discuss these two bills on Tuesday.


By Kevin McManus