Schaefer tree bill called inadequate

January 25, 1991|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

Environmental groups are unhappy with Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed tree-preservation bill, which they claim would allow developers to continue to cut too many trees without having to replace them.

David Carroll, Schaefer's Chesapeake Bay coordinator, acknowledged the complaints. He added that the measure, filed this week, was the product of a work group that included legislators, state planners, home builders and others.

"I would expect the discussion to continue," Carroll said. "We have made it clear [in the bill] that preserving existing trees is a real priority."

Similar legislation received overwhelming support from both houses of the legislature last year, but failed in the final hours of the 1989 session. Proponents blamed its demise on an 11th-hour procedural move by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore.

This year, proponents are hoping to negotiate with the governor to amend his bill.

"I really do want to work with the governor's bill if we can strengthen it," said Nita Settina, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

"The bottom line is there would be substantial tree losses" under the governor's bill, added state Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Anne Arundel, who co-sponsored last year's tree bill with state Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel.

The governor's bill, modeled after laws in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, would allow cutting of 80 percent of the trees in residential areas and 90 percent in commercial or industrial zones. In agricultural zones, 50 percent of the trees could be cut.

Settina said she and other environmentalists would focus on increasing the preservation requirements -- the "meat of the bill." After meeting this week with Carroll, she said it appeared the governor was open to suggestions.

Builders also are tracking the tree bill. George Shehan, president of the Home Builders Association of Maryland, said he was concerned that it would require planting of trees on building sites not now forested.

Environmentalist lauded such an "afforestation" clause, but Shehan said it would be costly to builders.

The governor's bill, as did the Cade-Winegrad measure last year, calls for builders to submit "forest-management" plans. The plans would be an attempt to steer cutting away from critical wildlife areas and to maintain larger tracts of trees.

Local governments would be required to develop methods of reviewing builders' management plans before sanctioning new subdivisions or granting grading permits and other approvals.

Last year's bill, with some exceptions, also required replanting of cut trees on a one-to-one basis.

Winegrad said he and Cade would attempt to work with Schaefer to require more trees to be saved. Should that fail, he said, he and Cade would introduce separate legislation.

Although considerable disagreement exists about the extent of tree loss in Maryland during recent decades, officials say that if the current rate of cutting continues, an additional 331,000 acres of forestland -- roughly one-eighth of the state's current total -- will be lost by 2020.

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