Resources and Tools

There is something that just feels different, more connected, and undeniably tangible about the woods. We take vacations and day trips to them, escape our daily aggravations along their trails, and happily get lost among trees that look similar, but are as distinct as every one of us. Those same unique trees do not survive and maintain their amazement without intentional planning. Forest resource planning is essential for protecting forest wildlife habitats, water quality in streams and estuaries, aquatic species and air quality. It also mitigates micro and macro climatic impacts and generates recreational and other opportunities for human interaction with nature.

The Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (HB 706, approved: May 2, 2013; effective October 1, 2013), requires the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning), in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Sustainable Forestry Council and other interested parties to develop information on policies and standards to protect forest land and urban tree canopy from adverse effects. The goals of this legislation are to “provide local jurisdictions with guidelines, recommendations and technical assistance on policies and standards to protect trees as lands are developed…as well as guidance and assistance with green infrastructure and urban tree canopy planning.”

Planning staff organized an interagency workgroup to create a much-needed, interactive source of information on the topic, Planning’s Forest Planning Resource webpage, which is now available online at https://planning.maryland.gov/Pages/OurWork/envr-planning/forest/ forest-resources.aspx. Together with representatives from the Sustainable Forestry Council and other DNR Forestry staff, Planning staff members Debbie Herr Cornwell, Dan Rosen, and Jason Dubow worked to identify which materials to include. Planning’s communications group, including John Coleman and David Buck, contributed to the process as well, providing guidance on how to best organize and deliver the most useful information. This collaboration resulted in a rapid and seamless webpage creation process.

The references highlighted on the Forest Resource Planning website are divided into three main categories or planning steps, advising users on how to: designate areas to protect; purchase or limit development rights in designated areas; and preserve trees during the development process. On the website, you can find relevant materials and links related to each of these three steps, as described below:

  1. Designate Areas to Protect – how to identify the most important forested areas to protect:

    Included in this step are Maryland’s GreenPrint Map which displays targeted ecological areas, including watersheds of high ecological value; DNR’s Strategic Forest Lands Assessment, which identifies forest lands with ecological, social and economic benefits; and i-Tree Tools, which assess and manage forests.
  2. Purchase or Limit Development Rights in Designated Areas – identify approaches for encouraging or requiring limited development in the forest protection areas:

    Tax incentives, zoning, transferable development rights and purchase of development rights are addressed in this section. It also includes case studies, such as those seen in the Chesapeake Bay Trust Conservation Land-Use Policy Toolkit, many of which demonstrate the excellent work of jurisdictions within the Bay watershed.
  3. Preserve Trees During the Development Process – how to provide physical protection during construction activities:This section describes conservation subdivision approaches, riparian forest setbacks, technical guidance for successful onsite tree protection measures, and online resources including the Maryland Forest Conservation Act, a Guide to Preserving Trees in Development Projects (PA University), Reduced Parking Footprint Criteria (LEED) and ANSI A300 standards for tree care practices.

The Forest Planning Resource webpage is available at the link above and is receiving positive feedback. The next time you return from a visit to your closest forest, or even when you get back from a faraway trip to a park you may never see again, check out Planning’s Forest Planning Resource webpage and learn how you can become an active participant in the preservation of some of Maryland’s most important living creatures. But please don’t visit the page when you are in the woods. In that moment, screens just get in the way.

To learn more about Planning’s Forest Planning Resources, please contact Debbie Herr Cornwell at deborah.herrcornwell@maryland.gov