Planning in Progress
Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner with Anne Hairston-Strang, Associate Director, Maryland Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources
It may not be the first thing you think of, but one of the most critical natural resources for ensuring the health of the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways in Maryland is healthy forest land. In fact, according to Anne Hairston-Strang of the Maryland Forest Service, “one of forests’ best uses is for promoting water quality, however that relies on proper harvesting using Best Management Practices (BMPs) for sediment and erosion control.”
Recently, the forest industry in Maryland has taken a number of hard hits, experiencing several devastating blows in the past year alone. These have consequences not just for the logging and timber industries, but as noted, the environmental health of the Bay and the entire region.
The event receiving the most publicity, the closing of the Luke paper mill in Allegany County in July 2019, had a tremendous impact, but it was not the only one. In addition, several sawmills on the Eastern shore closed last year and, while redeveloping the Port of Baltimore to make it deeper for larger cargo ships, the Port Administration was forced to remove the fumigation facilities that allowed the state’s forest industry to easily treat lumber prior to export.
Contributing to the issue, although preceding these events, the forest industry in Maryland is largely regulated at the county level. This means that logging companies are not regulated uniformly across the state, something which they contend makes doing business more complicated and more expensive than in other nearby states.
To mitigate these industry losses and ensure that forests throughout the state are properly managed and maintained, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Forest Service, a division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), have entered into an agreement via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Fundamentally, the MOU acknowledges that both MDE and DNR “each have a role in forest harvest operations…and contribute to preserving the State’s natural assets and resources.”
Furthermore, the MOU establishes the two agencies’ “collaborative partnership and commitment to developing strategies to: (1) ensure the continued protections of the State’s natural assets, resources, wetlands, and waterways during forest harvest operations; (2) maximize opportunities to improve efficiencies and streamline agencies’ review and permitting of erosion and sediment control plans for forest harvest operations; and (3) enhance technical expertise and natural resource protection before, during, and after forest harvest operations.”
The bottom line, according to Hairston, is “to increase DNR’s role so that more logging sites are checked for BMPs and loggers will have someone who knows forestry-specific practices as part of a fair regulatory process.” This effort goes into effect beginning July 1, 2020.
For more information about Maryland’s forest industry, the agencies’ roles in managing our forest resources or the MOU, contact Anne Hairston-Strang, Associate Director, Maryland Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources at Anne.Hairston-Strang@maryland.gov or (410) 260-8501.